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Zinke Votes For and Passes National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

September 26, 2016
Press Release

Zinke Votes For and Passes National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

Montana Outdoor Community Expresses Support

(CONGRESS) September 26, 2016 – Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 845, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. The bill passed unanimously and has the support of dozens of sportsmen, recreation, conservation, and governance groups in Montana and across the country. H.R. 845 will help address significant maintenance issues across our National Forest trail system by establishing a much-needed program to expand the use of volunteers and partner organizations in assisting the Forest Service in maintaining trails. The legislation will also ensure the Forest Service is prioritizing its trail maintenance activities in areas that are most important to the public and most in need of additional work.

“Maintaining and expanding access to our public lands has been a cornerstone of my first term in Congress, and the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act helps accomplish that goal through more collaboration at the local level and prioritizing maintenance of areas that need it most,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke. “Right now the Forest Service has a $500,000,000 backlog of trail maintenance. Using willing and capable volunteers to help maintain our trails saves the taxpayer money and gets the work done quickly. I have every confidence that Montana hunters, anglers, conservationists, and others are up to the task. Keeping our trails open and accessible improves our quality of life and it is also a boon to our economy. It’s my hope that the Senate picks this bill up quickly.”

H.R. 845  will develop a volunteer and partner coordination implementation plan for the strategy which clearly defines roles and responsibilities for the administrative unit and district staff, and includes strategies to ensure sufficient coordination, assistance, and support for volunteers and partners to improve trail maintenance.

H.R. 845 would establish a priority trail maintenance program by selecting no fewer than 9 and no more than 15 priority areas for increased trail maintenance accomplishments.  Priority areas shall include a well-defined region on National Forest System land where the lack of trail maintenance has reduced access to public land, led to an increase, or risk of increase, in harm to natural resources, jeopardized public safety, resulted in trails being impassible by the intended managed users, or increased future deferred trail maintenance costs. Within 6 months of the selection of priority areas, the Forest Service would be directed to develop an approach to substantially increase trail maintenance accomplishments within each priority area. 

“The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act will help improve maintenance of our National Forest trail system by providing new opportunities to expand trail maintenance,” said L. Harold Blattie, Executive Director of Montana Association of Counties. “This cooperative approach will help relieve the maintenance backlog we face, so more people can safely enjoy Montana’s great outdoors. We are thrilled to see this important legislation pass the House today and continue to press for its final passage into law. “

“Montana Outfitters and Guides Association applauds the passage of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act and the efforts of Montana Representative Ryan Zine for his unwavering support for public access to public lands,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and Chairman of the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America. “By expanding the use of partnerships and volunteerism and helping set trails maintenance priorities  this bill will do more to ensure public access to our National treasures than any other act of recent time.  We are proud to have been part of the diverse coalition of over 120 like-minded organizations led by the Wilderness Association in this effort.  HR 845 is a shining example of what can be accomplished when diverse interests seek common ground and work in an open and honest manner.  Outfitters have maintained tens of thousands of miles of public land trails over the years and will continue to do so.  HR 845 will make those efforts more meaningful.”  

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is encouraged by the passage of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act,” said David Allen, President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “This bill enlists the help of sportsmen and other organizations and volunteers to help prioritize and conduct trail maintenance at a time when the backlog of needed trail maintenance on federal lands continues to grow. This will certainly help ensure our forests remain open and accessible to hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.”

Zinke continued: “Looking at the criteria we set forth for establishing priority areas, I have no doubt that Montana trail systems will be included in the first round of designations. I welcome public input from Montanans for specific areas.”

Montanans may submit comments and suggestions about priority areas to Rep Ryan Zinke Cannon HOB 113, Washington, D.C. 20515.

The bill is supported by dozens of sportsmen, recreation, conservation, and governance groups in Montana and across the country. Below is a partial list:

Governmental Organizations

Western Governors’ Association

Montana Association of Counties

Recreation Organizations

American Council of Snowmobile Associations

American Motorcyclist Association

American Whitewater

Agricultural Organizations

Rural and Agricultural Council of America

United States Cattlemen’s Association

Outfitters and Guides

America Outdoors Association

Montana Outfitters and Guides Association

Professional Wilderness Outfitters Assn.

Back Country Horsemen of Montana

Hunting and Fishing Organizations

Montana Wildlife Federation

National Wild Turkey Federation

National Wildlife Federation

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Trout Unlimited

Conservation Organizations

Montana Wilderness Alliance

Natural Resources Defense Council

The Wilderness Society

Wyoming Outdoor Council

Trails Organizations

American Hiking Society

Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trails Partnership

National Coast Trail Association

Other Organizations

Assoc. of Outdoor Recreation and Education