Montana’s Senators Work to Improve Access to Montana’s Outdoors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In honor of the upcoming National Trails Day, Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester are working to improve maintenance of Montana’s National Forest trails.

Daines and Tester have signed onto S.1110, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2015, which would ensure existing Forest Service resources are better used to maintain National Forest trails. It would also significantly increase the role of volunteers and local partners in maintaining the usability and sustainability of the National Forest trail system.

“Montana has a rich outdoor heritage that is critical to our state’s economy and our way of life,” Daines said. “Unfortunately, too many of our National Forest trails are left unmaintained – making it difficult for Montanans to enjoy our state’s treasured lands. It’s important that we protect our public lands and maintain our nation’s trail system so that Montanans can enjoy recreational opportunities in our National Forests and access to public lands for generations to come.”

“Montana’s vast trail system takes outdoor enthusiasts to some of the nation’s most treasured places. Maintaining these hiking trails is a critical component of Montana’s outdoor economy and heritage,” Tester said. “This bill will improve trail maintenance so folks can continue to access our state’s public lands.”

Only one-quarter of the 158,000 miles of National Forest trails are actively maintained by the Forest Service — preventing Montanans from using many designated trails for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, motorized vehicle use, horseback riding and other outdoor activities. S.1110 requires the development of a national strategy to maximize the use of volunteers and local partners in trail maintenance, while also addressing liability concerns that restrict outside groups and individuals working on National Forest trails.

“Outfitters continue to clear the majority of the trails within of National Forests— a cost they bear as part of their business. These trails provide direct benefits for the outfitted and non outfitted public, but for these treasured lands to remain relevant to the public, the Forest Service must do a better job of ensuring a viable trail system exists,” said Montana Outfitters and Guides Association Executive Director Mac Minard. “We thank Montana’s Senators for their leadership on this important issue and their work to ensure Montana’s trails are properly maintained.”

“Trails are the pathway Montana’s great outdoors, and our trail system is too important to fall into disrepair and ruin,” said Paul Spitler, Director of Wilderness Campaigns for The Wilderness Society. “Without help from Congress, we may lose the trails that provide access to Montana’s special places. We thank Senators Tester and Daines for supporting this legislation that will ensure that our public lands remain accessible for all Americans.”

“Prickly Pear Land Trust develops and maintains an extensive system of hiking and biking trails in Helena’s south hills,” Prickly Pear Land Trust Executive Director Mary Hollow said. “We applaud Senators Daines and Tester for addressing critical maintenance needs of these trails, which feed our local economies and increase access to outdoor recreation.”

National Trails Day is this Saturday, June 6. Montanans interested in participating in National Trails Day activities can find a full list of events here.