A host of recreation and conservation organizations from around the nation, including some local Wyoming groups, have asked Congress to address inadequate trail maintenance in the National Forest system. According to a 2013 study requested by Representative Cynthia Lummis the Forest Service’s trail maintenance backlog was $314 million in 2012. The study said poorly maintained trails inhibit trail use, could harm natural resources, and maintenance costs will only grow the longer the backlog remains unaddressed. Jim Gehlhausen, with the Wyoming Back Country Horsemen, signed the letter that went out to members of Congress. He says in lieu of additional funding, existing volunteer programs can be made more efficient.
“Right now there’s different certification as to who can use chainsaws in the different forests. Sometimes we have problems, if you’re certified in one forest you may have to go through another certification in another forest. So one of the things we’re trying to do there is making it a national standard,” Gehlhausen says.
The groups also asked Congress to require the Forest Service to study expanded use of fire crews for maintenance and study a proposal to offset outfitters’ fees through trail maintenance. In 2012, the Forest Service reported accomplishing some maintenance on 37-percent of its nearly 160,000 miles of trails and said just a quarter of all trails met its standards. In the same year, the Forest Service valued its volunteer labor at $26 million.