If you care about the 158,00 mile Forest Service trail system, read on. Indeed, if you care about the condition of public land in the US you will find this interesting and possibly infuriating.
The Forest Service recently released a report that links the rising cost of wildfire suppression to the reduction of other services provided by the agency. When confronted by some irate member of the public about the lack of trail maintenance, all I have been able to say is “The budget has been cut. We don’t have enough funding to do our work.” This report graphically shows the dramatic decline of funding since 2001. I’ve been searching for this information for a number of years, certain that my colleagues and I are bearing witness to the steady disintegration of roads, trails, and recreation facilities on our National Forest and beyond. For years, we’ve been told to do more with less until it’s a matter of doing less with less. I’ve suspected that what we see is the result of the smaller government demanded by a noisy portion of the electorate. But I also suspect that there is plenty of money–it’s just being siphoned off elsewhere. A lot of it goes to firefighting. Have we become the US Fire Service?
Anyway, enough of me yelping from my soapbox. Read for yourself. And pass the information along to others who value public trails and wilderness.