Congress passes Forest Trail Stewardship Act
November 23, 2016
The political landscape in America is tense.
The recent election elevated partisan rancor to a level not seen since the 1960s while ongoing gridlock in Washington continues to erode the trust citizens have in their government institutions. It can seem, in this modern era, that there is nothing Democrats and Republicans can agree upon. But have heart fellow citizens because there is apparently one idea everyone can get behind: volunteers improving public lands.
Last Friday Congress sent a bill, called the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (NFSTSA), to President Obama’s desk after both the House and the Senate approved it earlier this year. Surprisingly the bill passed the Senate without amendment and by Unanimous Consent.
The bipartisan bill was introduced and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Michael Bennet of Colo., a Democrat, and Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyo., a Republican. Additionally both a Democrat and Republican cosponsored the bill in the US House.
The NFSTSA is intended to address trail maintenance issues in the US’s expansive National Forest system. There are roughly 158,000 miles of trails in the National Forests in the US. According to information taken from the government website of Sen. Bennet the US Forest Service is able to maintain only about one-quarter of all trails in National Forests each year.
If the bill is signed by President Obama and officially becomes law it is intended to, “maximize the use of volunteers and partners while addressing liability concerns that restrict outside groups and individuals working on the trails,” according to Sen. Bennet’s website.
Additionally the bill will direct a study on the utilization of fire crews for trail maintenance work during “off-seasons” as well a study on permitting outfitters and guides to offset their usage fees through trail maintenance work. The bill was formally sent to President Obama on Nov. 18 and had not yet been signed as of Wednesday afternoon Nov. 23.