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Forest Service seeks input on trail maintenance priorities

Seeks to speed up work, reduce backlog

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a 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.

The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region manages more than 24,000 miles of trails enjoyed by many users each year. In 2016, about 5,000 volunteers contributed more than 230,000 hours of service to trails work across Oregon and Washington. These volunteer contributions helped the Forest Service accomplish nearly half of the Region’s trail accomplishments in 2016. 

“Public input, volunteer contributions, and partnership support are cornerstones of our sustainable recreation strategy,” said Jim Peña, Regional Forester. “We have already begun hearing from Oregon and Washington trails groups with their ideas and look forward to working collaboratively with our partners and volunteers to achieve a more sustainable trails program.”

The Pacific Northwest Region will submit at least three regional proposals to National Headquarters by April 15. Those proposals will be weighed against proposals 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 include a variety 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.

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 Dennis Benson at denniscbenson@fs.fed.us by March 31

Nationally, 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.

The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act can be viewed at https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ245/PLAW-114publ245.pdf

To learn more about the Forest Service’s national strategy for a sustainable trail system, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/trail-management/strategy/index.shtml

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

The Pacific Northwest Region consists of 16 National Forests, 59 District Offices, a National Scenic Area, and a National Grassland comprising 24.7 million acres in Oregon and Washington and employing approximately 3,550 people. To learn more about the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6


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