Focus on Improving National Forest System Trails
Implementation of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 is underway, with focus on:
- Increasing the role of partners and volunteers in trail maintenance.
- Increasing trail maintenance in priority areas.
- Conducting trail stewardship through outfitter and guide partners.
- Exploring expanded use of fire crew assistance in trail maintenance.
Photo courtesy of Jacob Torres, Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance.
The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act was passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law in late 2016. The Act shines a focus on National Forest System trails, requiring the Agency to significantly increase the role of partners and volunteers in trail maintenance. The Act includes the following requirements:
- Trail Maintenance Priority Areas: Select and implement 9 to 15 areas for increased trail maintenance accomplishments.
- Outfitter & Guide Trail Stewardship Credit Pilot Program: Establish a pilot program on at least 20 national forests where participating outfitter and guide companies can perform agreed-upon trail maintenance work in lieu of paying the permitee’s annual land use fee.
- Trail Volunteer & Partner Strategy Development: Publish a strategy to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance. The strategy will identify methods for increasing the role of partners and volunteers in trail maintenance; aim to increase trail maintenance by 100 percent within 5 years; study opportunities for fire crew assistance with trail maintenance; reflect improved regulations related to volunteer liability; and require Forest Service units to develop associated strategy implementation plans.
- Report Findings: The Secretary of Agriculture will to report back to Congress on implementation of the strategy and associated accomplishments, the Outfitter & Guide Trail Stewardship Credit Pilot Program, and recommendations for further increasing partnerships and volunteerism.
Trail Maintenance Priority Areas
The Secretary of Agriculture selected fifteen Trail Maintenance Priority Areas that are actively supported by partners and volunteers. Increased focus on trail maintenance in these areas is expected to help address the trail deferred maintenance backlog and provide improved safety and quality recreation on motorized and non-motorized trails. Priority Areas reflect a range of recreation opportunities near urban, rural, and remote areas. These Priority Areas include 43 National Forests and are supported by over 320 partner organizations, numerous local business, and individual volunteers.
Outfitter & Guide Trail Stewardship Credit Pilot Program
The Outfitter & Guide Trail Stewardship Credit Pilot Program provides an opportunity for approved outfitters and guides to help with trail maintenance and, in exchange, offset all or part of the annual land use fee they pay for operating on National Forest System land. Twenty national forests have been selected for participation in the pilot programs. Stewardship activities are aimed at constructing, improving, and maintaining National Forest System trails, trailheads, and developed recreation sites that support public use.