GAO Report on Forest Service Trails Financial Sustainability


 May 5, 2014

Talking points on the  GAO Report on Forest Service Trails Financial Sustainability (GAO 13-618).

Complete report is available here:

Issued by the Government Accountability Office in June 2013 and found that only 25% of all forest service routes are financially sustainable.  The conclusions of this report have been the basis for several new discussions with USFS representatives on motorized route development. This report is not the basis for closures of motorized/multiple use routes.  Conclusions of the report supporting this position are:

1.  The GAO analysis is very large in scope and addresses  all types of trail usage including non-motorized routes in Wilderness areas.  Non-motorized routes in Wilderness areas  on Forest Service lands account for 20% of the total mileage of all Forest Service routes. 

2.  Maintenance of non-motorized Wilderness  routes is exceptionally expensive when compared to multiple use routes, due to management limitations on types of management, limited access to areas and many of these routes have been heavily impacted by intense wildfire and Forest health issues.

3.  OHV grant programs are specifically recognized as a significant contributor to maintenance of multiple use routes, even if these funding sources were not tracked by the Forest Service. The motorized program is the only significant funding source addressed in the report. Without this funding the overall funding picture would be far more grim as these programs very effectively leverage RTP monies.  No similar program exists for the maintenance of non-motorized routes.

4.  Winter motorized trails are not included in analysis and this usage is almost completely paid for by users on Forest Service lands.

5.  Volunteers are specifically identified as a major resource for maintaining routes.   The motorized community is the source of extensive volunteer efforts to maintain trails in addition to the direct funding that is provided.   The report identifies that having the right forest service  employee in place to work with volunteers is critical.  We would agree

6.  This report really provides no basis for the closure of multiple use routes.  The loss of multiple use routes erodes user support for registration programs that provide significant effective funding for maintenance of multiple use routes and negatively impacts users desire to volunteer for maintenance activities.