USFS, volunteers keep public trails accessible
Two weeks ago, the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) helped clear the Gazelle Creek trail because “once a trail disappears, it’s gone forever.”
The U.S. Forest Service is charged with a large portfolio, including maintaining access to designated trails on public land it manages. Thanks to volunteer members of groups like SWMMBA, Backcountry Horsemen and others, the Madison Ranger District of U.S.F.S. is getting a helping hand and saw.
Joel Sather is the Natural Resources Specialist working in the forest service office in Ennis. Sather says volunteer groups provide essential support to the agency’s trail-clearing mission, especially given the wide swath of public land that it manages in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest – 3.35 million acres.
“We want to get more groups involved and trained to help us maintain public trails to USFS clearance specifications: 6 ft. wide and 10 ft. high,” he said. “We expect to work in the Madison Ranger District with the Backcountry Horsemen. Wild Montana will head to the Snowcrest Range in August for four days of trail-clearing.”
The public trails are used for a range of different types of recreation, from hiking to snowmobiling to hunting and mountain biking. Sather sees the trails volunteer program as an opportunity for various groups to help take care of them.
“Our professional crews do a great job managing trails and other recreational priorities,” Sather said. “They appreciate the help the volunteers bring and are available to provide support and training.”
He noted that trails in areas designated as “wilderness,” such as the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, can only be cleared with non-mechanized tools.
Ready to volunteer? Email joel. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trails report launched
The Madison Ranger District recently introduced a new tool that tracks the conditions of its 843-mile trail network and the maintenance work that has been completed. People who use the trails are invited to submit their comments and experiences. Sather distributes an updated report each week by email. Anyone with an interest in contributing to and receiving the report should also contact Sather at the email above.