It ain’t exactly the New Deal for trail infrastructure, but a new federal law seeks to mobilize volunteers around the country to help maintain the nation’s wilderness routes.
The law, signed last week by President Obama, requires the Forest Service to develop a larger volunteer force to help maintain the forest trails and requires the Department of Agriculture to allow off-season forest fire fighters to work on trail maintenance.
The law directs the Forest Service to identify 9 to 15 priority areas based on greatest need for maintenance, as determined by factors such as safety, protecting natural resources and providing access to recreationalists.
About 165 million people each year visit the US National Forest System, which comprises the largest trail system in the world. But as the number of trail users has grown to an all-time high, the conditions of the forest system’s trails has degraded due to neglect.
A study by the US Government Accountability Office found that the trail system suffers from a $314 million maintenance backlog. Only one-quarter of the agency’s 158,000 miles of trails meet agency standards for maintenance and nearly two-thirds receive no maintenance at all.
National forests in SoCal include Angeles National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, Los Padres National Forest and San Bernadino National Forest. It’s unclear whether any Southern California forests areas would be a Forest Service priority.