Congress Explores Best Practices for Maintaining Off-Road Trails

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

A U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on how to best manage trails for motorized and non-motorized recreation. It was noted that a number of trails were not originally intended as recreational venues but rather wood/mining extraction roads, fire breaks, hunting routes or game trails. Witnesses recommended a public/private collaborative approach for improved maintenance and trail marking. The panel stressed the importance of including local stakeholders and trail users in land-management decisions. Some witnesses and subcommittee members specifically warned against “wilderness” and “National Monument” designations that can close large areas of public lands to recreational opportunities without consideration of local concerns.

The hearing coincided with a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report citing an estimated $314 million trail maintenance and improvement backlog by the U.S. Forest Service for 2012. The report finds that the Forest Service oversees more miles of trail than it can manage, strengthening the case for a more fiscally responsible and collaborative approach to trail management. 

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