San Bernardino National Forest officials seek ideas, help for future trail work

U.S. Forest Service crews and volunteers for the past year have stepped up their pace to renovate many of the San Jacinto Wilderness area trails in the San Bernardino National Forest that were damaged or destroyed in the 2013 14,000-acre Mountain Fire.

While the work continues to reopen a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, local hiking trails, the May Valley mountain bike trail and other San Bernardino National Forest trails damaged by fire in recent years, the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5) is inviting the public to help identify area trails that continue to have limited access. With the help of the public, equestrians and hikers who know the trails, the pace of the trail maintenance may increase.

“We are counting on our fellow Californians to help us identify where maintenance is needed,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. “The forest visitors who enjoy these trails year-round are the best source of information for what’s needed on the ground, and we’re counting on their expertise and willingness to help.”

He explained that Region 5 manages more than 16,000 miles of trails enjoyed by 16,100,000 users each year. In Region 5, volunteers and partner groups contributed more than 178,000 hours in maintenance and repair of nearly 2,984 miles of trials last year.

Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributed to reduced access, potential harm toe natural resources for trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs, he noted.

Region 5 forest officials hope that information from the public will help complete at least three regional proposals to the Forest Service National Headquarters that will be weighed against proposals submitted by other Forest Service regions.

The selected sites will be part of the initial focus that will include a mosaic of areas with known trail maintenance needs that include areas near urban and remote areas, such as wilderness, are of varying sizes and trail lengths, are motorized and non-motorized and those that incorporate a varied combination of partner and volunteer approaches and solutions.

The U.S. Forest Service Region 5 news release also noted the trail maintenance effort is outlined in the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 and aims to increase train maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100 percent by the end of 2021.

However, limited funding compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations, like the Mountain Fire, has resulted in less than 25 percent of Forest Service trails meeting all of the agency’s standards for safety, quality recreation and economic and environmental sustainability. The remaining trials meet standards of varying degrees.

Moore urged those wishing to provide motorized and non-motorized trail information and suggestions on potential priority areas and approaches for increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers to contact the local Forest Service office in San Bernardino or Regional Trail Manager Garrett Villanueva at gvillanueva@fs.fed.us by April 7.

The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail – the largest trail system in the nation – providing motorized and non-motorized trail access across 154 national forests and grasslands. These Forest Service trails are well-loved and highly used with more than 84 million trail visits annually, helping to support mostly rural economies.

The Forest Service receives widespread support from tens of thousands of volunteers and partners each year who, in 2015, contributed nearly 1.4 million hours – a value of about $31.6 million – in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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