NFS IDENTIFIES “PRIORITY AREAS” FOR TRAIL REPAIR, LAWMAKERS TO EXPAND SCOPE OF RNR ACT
February 20, 2018
On February 16, the Department of Agriculture’s National Forest Service (NFS) unveiled a list of 15 trail areas that the agency is targeting for priority maintenance projects. As you recall, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245, aka, “Trails Act”), signed into law in late 2016, directs the NFS to take steps to reduce the backlog of federal maintenance projects by identifying those that are in most need of repair. The Trails Act outlines a detailed program including goals and timetables by which the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will leverage private partners to clear trails long overdue for maintenance. USDA Secretary Perdue underscored the importance of public/private partnerships supported by the horse industry by stating that the “partners and volunteers” will “address needed infrastructure work,” amounting to about $300 million in backlog maintenance.
Jim McGarvey, who leads the American Horse Council’s Recreation, Trails and Land-Use Committee, applauds the agency’s follow-through on the Trails Act directives. He states that “AHC was a proud supporter of the Trails Act, and we thank the Forest Service for its continued work in saving these trails for America’s horse riders.” By beginning work on “priority areas,” the agency is focusing on trails that were “impassable” and otherwise posed safety hazards to horsemen and other outdoor enthusiasts. On February 13, NFS personnel informed AHC members and staff that the agency will continue to explore ways to leverage public/private partnerships to maintain public trails. To view a copy of the NFS announcement, please click here: https://www.fs.fed.us/news/releases/usda-secretary-announces-infrastructure-improvements-forest-system-trails.
On the congressional front, lawmakers continue to review provisions that would expand the scope of the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape (RNR) Act (H.R. 3400), one of Congress’ most ambitious public lands initiatives. The legislation would build on the success of the Trails Act by authorizing the Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to enter into cooperative agreements with private parties to continue to expand the role of volunteers in trail maintenance. The House Natural Resources Committee is planning to move forward with a mark-up of H.R. 3400, possibly as early as March, to incorporate provisions of the Guide Outfitters (GO) Act into H.R. 3400. The expanded bill would establish a variety of regulatory efficiencies, including creation of joint permits for activities that take place on lands administered by the National Park Service, NFS and BLM. The House Natural Resources Committee postponed a mark-up planned for Wednesday, February 14, to continue to explore ways to expand the scope of the RNR Act.
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