Monday, July 8, 2013

GAO Report: Forest Service Trails in Lousy Condition, Getting Worse

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM

A new report indicates that the U.S. Forest Service has more trail miles than it's able to maintain—158,000 miles—and that only about one-quarter meet the agency's standards.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office studied the Forest Service trails and found that the agency's trail maintenance backlog topped $300 million in fiscal year 2012.

"With the important exception of maintaining forest health to combat wildfires and insect kill, there is no other activity in the Forest Service’s portfolio that is more important than ensuring the public’s access to our forests and wilderness areas,” said Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who added that the Forest Service's trail maintenance program is being “held together by Band-Aids and bailing wire.”

The GAO report noted “certain agency policies and procedures complicate trail maintenance efforts, such as the agency’s lack of standardized training in trails field skills, which limits agency expertise. Further, while volunteers are important to the agency’s trail maintenance efforts, managing volunteers can decrease the time officials can spend performing on-the-ground maintenance.”

Nationally, the Forest Service allocated $80 million to trail maintenance in 2013.

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