Saturday, December 17, 2016

New law aims to improve trails, another measures economic impact

Posted By on Sat, Dec 17, 2016 at 8:24 AM

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Last month, with broad bi-partisanship support, President Obama signed into law the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. The law comes after a 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study which showed that the U.S. Forest Service had a $314 million backlog of trail maintenance, and that only about one-quarter of Forest Service trails actually met it's own trail maintenance standards.

The bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to put together a nationwide strategy "to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance" by not only removing obstacles that keep volunteers from doing trail maintenance, but to prioritize the use of volunteers and other partners in areas with the most severe maintenance backlogs and where backlogs are restricting access to forest lands. There is no room for the USDA to drag its feet. The department must double trail maintenance by volunteers and other partners within 5 years, and not only identify areas where significant trail maintenance is needed, but consider public input on the identified areas within three months of the law being enacted.

What this means to the Pike National Forest and to the those of us who play in it remains to be seen, but anyone who has spent time in Pike and other national forests have no doubt encountered trails that are eroded, worn out, in need of realignment or have other issues. Hopefully this will set the stage for much need maintenance work in our region.

Colorado, and much of the western U.S., relies heavily on outdoor recreation and tourism for economic stability and growth. But there has been no official or reliable way to measure the direct economic impact outdoor recreation has had on the national economy. That changed when President Obama signed in to law the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act earlier this month, which directs the U.S. Department of Commerce along with the Interior Department and the USDA to determine the direct impact that outdoor recreation has on the national economy. The law directs that employment, sales and other components of the outdoor recreation economy be taken into consideration when determining it's impact. The law also makes a point of directing the agencies to consider the impact of small "mom and pop" outdoor recreation businesses.

One can hope that the recognition of outdoor recreation on the national economy will pay dividends in the form of increased national political influence for Colorado and other western states.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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