The Methow Valley Ranger District is a bit closer to being named a “priority area” for trail maintenance funding under a new federal law called the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, which was passed last November.
The district was notified last week that it is being considered as a priority area based on the support and public interest the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office has received, according to Natalie Kuehler and Don Fitzpatrick, who are on the steering committee of the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative (MVTC).
The collaborative was formed last year to represent a wide range trail users, and to improve and maintain trails around the Methow Valley. The group’s first priority is working to help the Methow Valley Ranger District achieve priority area designation.
Kuehler said the region will submit three or four proposed areas to the Forest Service’s Washington, D.C., office for consideration. She said one or two areas will likely be selected. At least nine and up to 15 priority areas will be chosen by the end of May.
Kuehler said letters or statements of support can still be sent to: Tracy Tophooven, Director of Recreation, Lands & Minerals, USDA Forest Service Region 6, 1220 Southwest Third Ave., Portland, OR 97204; or emailed to email@example.com.
MVTC hopes to help open trails and maintain them for the enjoyment of hikers, bikers, horseback riders, skiers and motorized users including snowmobilers, dirt bikers and ATV riders.
Priority area designation would mean that the Methow Valley Ranger District would receive additional funding and resources, and be free to experiment with new ways of using volunteers and community partners to clear and maintain trails, Kuehler said in an earlier interview.
The new federal law recognizes that budget limitations have caused an immense backlog in the maintenance of the Forest system’s recreational trail system nationwide.
The act requires the Forest Service to develop a strategy that uses volunteers, partners, and outfitters and guides to play a larger role in maintaining trails on Forest Service land.
“If the Methow Valley Ranger District is selected as a Priority Area, the MVTC — as an umbrella organization for a diverse group of trail users and volunteers — is perfectly poised to immediately begin working with the ranger district to address the backlog of trail work and restoration of sustainable access that is long overdue in the iconic North Cascades,” the MVTC proposal supporting priority area status said.
To learn more about the trails collaborative, contact steering committee chair Ben Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.