In the face of some angry senatorial blow-back, the Forest Service has restored full trail maintenance funding in Region 1. For now . . .
The U.S. Forest Service has dropped its proposal to reduce funding for trail maintenance in Montana. The agency originally planned to reduce appropriations for Region One, which includes Montana, by 30 percent over the next three years. This included a potential loss of $1 million to Montana’s federal trail budget this year.
U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester criticized Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency proposed revising its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, there are 28,000 miles of federally managed trails.
The agency on Friday said it would reconsider the formula change and withdrew the proposal.
Also read: Forest Service backs off planned cuts in trail maintenance in Montana (Missoulian)
Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are not happy about the state of Forest Service funding for fighting wildfires and maintaining trails . . .
As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the looming wildfire season, Montana’s senators are calling for reforms to the agency’s forest and trail management.
U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines questioned Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week during a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing focused on the agency’s $4.8 billion budget request for the next fiscal year.
Tester and Daines criticized Tidwell for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency has revised its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, which encompasses all of Montana and has 28,000 miles of federally managed trails, the agency plans to reduce appropriations by 30 percent over the next three years. There is an estimated $25 million in deferred trail maintenance in Region One, according to a Forest Service report.
Our friends at the North Fork Trails Association (aka the “Trail 4 Organization”) now have a basic web presence at http://www.nftrails.org/.
Also, you can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/nftrails. I’m told you are supposed to “like” their page. Every time you do this, an angel gets its wings — or something like that.
Their mission is to “promote the maintenance and preservation of the historic trail structure in the North Fork Flathead area with the aim of supporting recreation, forest management and research.” In other words, work on getting the old North Fork trail system fixed back up. Keep an eye on them. They have big plans this year.
This is interesting, especially in view of the uptick in volunteer trail maintenance activity on the North Fork over the past year . . .
A bill encouraging the U.S. Forest Service to improve its trail maintenance received widespread support from Montana outdoors groups this week.
The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, The Wilderness Society and others heralded the introduction of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act by Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, and Tim Walz, D-Minnesota. The bill would expand the use of volunteer help on trail maintenance and codify how the Forest Service prioritizes its maintenance backlog.
Our friends at the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation are expanding their volunteer opportunities . . .
This summer, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation has expanded its annual offering to 40 “Volunteer Vacation” projects.
The foundation will kick off its season June 7 with a National Trails Day celebration at Stanton Lake.
Volunteer projects of varying difficulty are available through mid-September. Trip offerings include weekend to week-long backcountry trips throughout the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
See also http://www.bmwf.org/volunteer
The gate at the foot of Moran Basin Road is open again, restoring access to the trail to the old Coal Ridge lookout and points nearby. The trail should be in good shape. Earlier this year, a forest service crew cleaned it up. They also performed maintenance on the old patrol cabin.
Moran Basin Road is the second left heading westbound on Hay Creek Road. The Coal Ridge trailhead is about three miles up Moran Basin Road, just before the terminating “kelly hump.”
Update: This summer’s crew did more than just clean up the trail to Coal Ridge, they performed major renovations to the old “pray-and-scramble” trailhead, replacing it with a couple of well-designed short switchbacks. Nicely done.
The Flathead Beacon has a good write-up, with photos, of Sen. Max Baucus “work day” last Tuesday near Big Creek . . .
Chipping away at the sun baked dirt with a Pulaski axe, a hard-hat clad Max Baucus graded out the slope of a hiking trail high above the North Fork Flathead River near the Big Creek tributary, buffing out a ribbon of single track that tops out on Glacier View Mountain but hasn’t been maintained since fire scoured the hillside in 2001.
In many ways, it was another day at the office for Montana’s senior senator, but instead of walking the halls of Congress he climbed steep switchbacks, chatting with and sweating alongside young members of a Montana Conservation Corps trail crew instead of running the Senate Finance Committee.
According to Valerie Cox, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus is holding one of his “work days” tomorrow morning (Thursday, August 8). It is a trail building work session, beginning at 8:00 a.m. near the Camas Road intersection. Attendees include Sen. Baucus, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger Rob Davies, a Montana Conservation Core trail crew and any North Fork folks who are interested in attending.
The Daily Inter Lake also posted an article about the event, although it lacked the late-breaking scheduling details. Here’s the lead-in . . .
Montana Sen. Max Baucus will return to the Flathead Valley this week to carry out one of his signature “work days,” this time doing trail work in the North Fork Flathead drainage.
Baucus said he will be working alongside Montana Conservation Corps crews as a tie to his efforts over 40 years to protect the North Fork drainage.
The U.S. General Accounting Office just released a discouraging report on the state of the Forest Service trail network. No surprise to anyone familiar with the North Folk’s trail inventory, only about a fourth of them receive adequate maintenance . . .
A new federal report says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit.
Volunteer groups like the Backcountry Horsemen of America and The Wilderness Society have stepped into that gap, but they worry the backlog will drive folks out of the woods.
“We found problems with trail maintenance was undermining support for wilderness and public land in general,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns for The Wilderness Society…
Additional material: GAO report on the state of Forest Service trails