USFS National Trails Stewardship Program

By: Aaron Bannon

A new program promises to enlist the aid of licensed outfitters to curb trail maintenance backlog in select National Forests. In lieu of some or all of their annual permitting fees, permittees can support forests through an agreed-upon trail maintenance plan. This week, the US Forest Service released their list of 20 forests that will pilot the new program. America Outdoors applauds the progress on this important initiative.

“This is a great development for outfitters and agency personnel alike, who have struggled with insufficient resources and inefficient processes, to meet their shared goals of keeping forest trails open and accessible,” said Aaron Bannon, America Outdoors Executive Director. “We are encouraging outfitters who operate on the designated forests to reach out and find opportunities to partner.”

One outfitter in Wyoming, Taylor Engum, was an early adopter of the initiative, and cleared 1,400 trees in three days, opening a trail into the Bighorn National Forest that would have otherwise been closed indefinitely. Engum worked closely with local forest personnel to green light the project.

“This trail isn’t a primary access point four our operation,” said Engum, “But it was important to us that it stay open for folks. I don’t think that trail would have opened back up if we hadn’t been able to reach an agreement and get in there and clean it up.”

The US Forest Service is implementing the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, passed in 2016, which provides a program to help alleviate the system-wide trail maintenance backlog and encourages the Forest Service to “significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance.” Implementation initially requires the selection of 20 pilot forests to test the program.

Those forests are:

Bitterroot National Forest (Region 1)

Kootenai National Forest (Region 1)

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests (Region 1)

Bighorn National Forest (Region 2)

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland (Region 2)

San Juan National Forest (Region 2)

Shoshone National Forest (Region 2)

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Region 3)

Gila National Forest (Region 3)

Salmon-Challis National Forest (Region 4)

Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Region 6)

 Siuslaw National Forest (Region 6)

Umpqua National Forest (Region 6)

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (Region 6)

Willamette National Forest (Region 6)

National Forests of Mississippi (Region 8)

Ouachita National Forest (Region 8)

Mark Twain National Forest (Region 9)

Wayne National Forest (Region 9)

Tongass National Forest (Region 10)


The America Outdoors Association is a community of outdoor adventure businesses who have joined together to promote and support the outdoor recreation industry through advocacy, education, and collaboration. The association has been working on behalf of the outdoor industry for 30 years.

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