Concrete Steps to Prompt Your National Forest into Action
Friday, August 10, 2018
Posted by: Chris O'Sullivan
BCHA spent several years shaping and working with Congress to pass the 2016 National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (Public Law 114-245). Yet members in some BCH states have seen little evidence that the U.S. Forest Service has moved forward to implement the Act in local national forests.
Included among the Trails Stewardship Act’s provisions is a requirement that the Forest Service develop a strategy to “significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in National Forest System trail maintenance” (Section 4(a) of the Act). The Act further requires the agency to:
Provide meaningful opportunities for volunteers and partners to carry out trail maintenance in each region of the Forest Service (Section 4(b)(2)).; and
Prioritize increased volunteerism and partnerships in trail maintenance in those regions with the most severe trail maintenance needs, and where trail maintenance backlogs are jeopardizing access to National Forest lands (Section 4(b)(4)).
If you have yet to hear from your local forest or ranger district about these requirements, which the agency has five years to implement, perhaps you need to schedule a meeting with local Forest Service staff to bring them up to speed.
The Washington DC office of the Forest Service reported to BCHA that each region is working on an “implementation plan” to step-up its work with volunteers and partners as required by the Trails Stewardship Act. These plans will be completed no later than the end of 2018. Region 1, which encompasses Montana, North Dakota and Northern Idaho, appears to be furthest along and might serve as a model for how other regions craft their plans.
Consequently, this is a good time to meet with your local Forest Service representatives. BCHA’s Director for Public Lands & Recreation suggests you share the following information with them:
A copy of the 2016 National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act.
A copy of the (former) Chief’s memo to regions about expectations for implementing of the Trails Act.
These documents are located on BCHA’s website, under the Advocacy & Action tab on State and Chapter Resources.
During your meeting, you should also ask the following questions to let your Forest representatives know of our high expectation that more trail work will soon be accomplished:
What is the timeline for completion of your region’s implementation plan for the 2016 Trails Stewardship Act?
When will you be seeking our input before you complete the plan? We want to help shape it.
What will this (local) forest do with the additional funding that Congress granted for Forest Service trails this year (Fiscal Year 2018)?
BCHA pushed for an increase in your trail funding (Construction & Maintenance-Trails, or “CMTL”) and Congress gave the agency an increase of $2.5 million this year that has been distributed to the regions. How will you use it in your strategy to begin reversing the trail maintenance backlog?
Hopefully, these questions will launch you into a meaningful conversation with your local forest staff that demonstrates your expectations resulting from BCHA’s hard-fought efforts. Stay engaged and don’t leave until you have good answers!