AMA supports bill to permit use of volunteers for national forest trail maintenance

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The American Motorcyclist Association supports the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, which would allow more volunteer efforts to assist the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining its 157,000 miles of trails.

February 12, 2015

PICKERINGTON, OH - American Motorcyclist Association

The American Motorcyclist Association supports the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, which would allow more volunteer efforts to assist the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining its 157,000 miles of trails.

Introduced on Feb. 10 by U.S. Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the act -- H.R. 845 -- requires a national strategy to maximize the use of volunteers and partners and addresses liability concerns that restrict outside groups and individuals working on the trails, specifically including motorized trails as a priority.

"The maintenance backlog on USFS-managed lands has surpassed a half-billion dollars, and no new influx of funding has appeared," said Wayne Allard, AMA's vice president of government relations. "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," Allard said.

In June 2013, a Government Accountability Office report outlining the immense challenges to the Forest Service recognized the importance of volunteers to trail maintenance and recommended taking steps to improve the management of volunteers.

The Forest Service is only able to maintain to its standards 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.

"Lack of funding is an often cited reason for OHV trail closure," Allard said. "It is our hope that by increasing use of volunteers, we will drastically reduce the number of OHV trails closed due to lack of 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," Rep. Lummis said. "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," said Rep. Walz, chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. "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. 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."