|This week, during the “Hike the Hill” event in Washington DC that BCHA attends each year with trail partners, the U.S. Forest Service announced the following important developments.
Priority Areas for Increased Trail Maintenance Accomplishments
The long-awaited list of Priority Areas was released with great fanfare Thursday evening. It can be found here.
The identification of Priority Areas was required by the 2016 National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245), the concepts of which BCHA and its partners worked to shape and support over many years. Priority Areas will help the agency document progress toward goals specified in the Act. However, provisions of the Act apply to all National Forests; not solely these Priority Areas.
So don’t be discouraged if your favorite forest or region is not listed among the Priority Areas. National Forest lands in non-priority areas will be given equal weighting, for example, in distribution of the next round of Forest Trail Stewardship grants, described below.
Trails Stewardship Grants
The Forest Service this week announced to trail partners that it will continue a second years of its National Forest System Trails Stewardship grants. This modest grant program, which kicked off last year in response to Congress’ passage of the 2016 Trails Stewardship Act, is intended as seed money to pull in more partners to address the trail maintenance backlog.
This year’s grant program will include about $400,000 in matching grants and will be detailed within the next week or two on the website of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance (NWSA).
Monitor the NWSA website for more information. Grant applications will be due by mid-March. So reach out to your local Forest Service trail managers now in order to coordinate your application. Grants will only be awarded to projects that carry the support of the agency and are intended to be carried out primarily (with some exceptions) during the 2018 field season.
Last year, $230,000 in Forest Trails Stewardship grants were distributed to partners—including BCH Washington—to leverage an addition in-kind match of about $754,000 from 23 trail organizations across the U.S.
National Strategy for a Sustainable Trail System
Lastly, the agency formally issued its “Trails Strategy” to Hike the Hill participants earlier this week. It can be accessed via the new trails website launched this week by the Forest Service here.
The new website includes links to a new interactive trails map, plus information on the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act (October 1968), including the new #FINDYOURTRAIL campaign.
I hope you will agree that the Forest Service has done much in recent years to place a high priority on trails. As always, BCHA and its dedicated volunteers will continue to work side-by-side with Forest Service professionals to ensure our trails remain open to all.
Freddy Dunn, Chairman