Contributed by the US Forest Service
The Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5) is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.
Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributed to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.
Region 5 manages more than 16,000 miles of trails enjoyed by 16,100,000 users each year. In Region 5, volunteers and partner groups contributed more than 178,000 hours in maintenance and repair of nearly 2,984 miles of trails last year.
“We are counting on our fellow Californians to help us identify where maintenance is needed,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. “The forest visitors who enjoy these trails year-round are the best source of information for what’s needed on the ground, and we’re counting on their expertise and willingness to help.”
Region 5 has until April 15 to submit at least three regional proposals to National Headquarters. Those proposals will be weighed against proposal submitted by other Forest Service regions.
The trail maintenance effort is outlined in the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 and aims to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100% by the end of 2021.
The selected sites will be part of the initial focus that will include a mosaic of areas with known trail maintenance needs that include areas near urban and remote areas, such as wilderness, are of varying sizes and trail lengths, are motorized and non-motorized, and those that incorporate a varied combination of partner and volunteer approaches and solutions.
The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail – the largest trail system in the nation – providing motorized and non-motorized trail access across 154 national forests and grasslands. These Forest Service trails are well-loved and highly used with more than 84 million trail visits annually, helping to support mostly rural economies.
The Forest Service receives widespread support from tens of thousands of volunteers and partners each year who, in 2015, contributed nearly 1.4 million hours – a value of about $31.6 million – in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.
However, limited funding compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations, has resulted in less than 25 percent of Forest Service trails meeting all of the agency’s standards for safety, quality recreation and economic and environmental sustainability. The remaining trails meet standard to varying degrees.
To provide ideas and suggestions on potential priority areas and approaches for incorporating increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers, contact your local Forest Service office or Regional Trail Program Manager Garrett Villanueva at email@example.com by April 7.