Lummis, Walz Introduce Bi-partisan Trails Bill
Seek to solve trail maintenance backlog by streamlining volunteers’, trail guides’ maintenance efforts.
Washington, DC [2/11/15] – Late yesterday, U.S. Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. In June of 2013, the Government Accountability Office released a report that outlined the immense challenges to maintaining the 157,000 miles of trails in the Forest Service trail system and wilderness areas. The Forest Service is only able to maintain to standard about one quarter of the total miles of trails used for hiking, biking and other activities while close to two-thirds of the trails receive no maintenance at all.
The GAO report recognized the importance of volunteers for trail maintenance and recommended taking steps to improve management of volunteers. The Lummis-Walz bill focuses on four ways to make better use of existing resources within the Forest Service and to bring in outsiders to help address the backlog. The act requires a national strategy to maximize use of volunteers and partners and addresses liability concerns that restrict outside groups and individuals working on the trails. The bill also directs a study be done on utilizing fire crews for maintenance work during off-seasons and a study be done on permits for outfitters and guides to offset some fees through work on trail maintenance.
“As we look to stretch taxpayer dollars during these tight fiscal times, we need to make sure we maximize use of all our existing resources,” said Rep. Lummis. “The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act will do just that. Refocusing on volunteers and partners to help the Forest Service is a sure fire way of making progress on the backlog and opening up these trails to public access. The studies into utilizing fire crews during off season and letting outfitters work off some of their fees will help make sure we leave no avenue untested to clean up our trails.”
“From hikers to bikers, outdoor enthusiasts across the country utilize 157,000 miles of National Forest System trails every day for exercise, relaxation, and exploration. Though public use remains high, close to two-thirds of these trails don’t receive any maintenance whatsoever because our Forest Service simply lacks the resources to keep up,” said Rep. Walz, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “That’s why I am proud to join Representative Lummis to introduce the bipartisan National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. This bill will give the Forest Service the flexibility it needs to maintain our national treasures while maximizing existing resources. Protecting our public lands for future generations while increasing access to the great outdoors is our responsibility, and this bill is a step in the right direction.”
“The maintenance backlog on USFS-managed lands has surpassed a half-billion dollars, and no new influx of funding has appeared,” said Wayne Allard, vice president of government relations for the American Motorcyclist Association. “So, the AMA supports this bill, which would increase the use of volunteers to keep trails open and maintained for a fraction of the cost. We thank Reps. Lummis and Walz for introducing the legislation and look forward to working with them to increase trail use for off-highway-vehicles and all trail users in our national forests.”
“America Outdoors Association is grateful to Representatives Lummis and Walz for recognizing the need for a comprehensive strategy to deal with the degrading trail infrastructure on public lands. The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act is an important step toward developing a comprehensive strategy to maintain access to our public lands,” said David Brown, Executive Director of America Outdoors Association, a trade association of America’s outfitters and guides. “Without a comprehensive trail maintenance strategy, recreational access to National Forest lands will continue to shrink as trails are closed and opportunities to experience America’s spectacular public lands contract. America’s outfitters and guides thank Representatives Lummis and Walz for introducing this much-needed legislation. We look forward to working with Congress as the bill moves forward to find a way to harness the skills of outfitters and guides who know the backcountry so well.”
Please click here for the full bill.