Trail Funding

The National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding Program

A joint partnership effort between NWSA and the USDA Forest Service, and you! 

This program is a collaboration of NWSA and the Forest Service, with American Hiking Society, American Trails, Back Country Horsemen of America, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and the American Motorcyclist Association all participating in the rating and selection of projects.  These program funds are provided to trail and stewardship organizations to improve trail maintenance on the National Forest System Trail System.  


Summer 2019 National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding

** The Trail Stewardship Funding Program has been CANCELLED for 2019 **

** Special Note - All Trail Stewardship Groups  **

Due to a change in allocation strategy for funding at the Washington Office the funding requested for the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding was not approved and all available funds were distributed to the Regions to fund local Forest Service operations.  We apologize for any hardship this may cause.  We asked the Regions if they would fund the program this year, but funding decisions had already been made and could not be reversed at this time.  Other funding was not available.

The good news is that thanks to your efforts contacting Regional Foresters and others the Trail Stewardship Partner Funding has broad support in the agency and there is encouragement that the funding will be resumed in 2020.  Our trail coalition will continue to pursue making these funds available in the future.

In the meantime continue to use the information below in your discussions with agency officials about Trail Stewardship funding.

Please click here for the briefing paper.

General Talking Points about the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding Program

  • The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act requires the Forest Service to increase the number of volunteers involved in trail maintenance.

  • The National Forest Trail System Stewardship Partnership Funding is a funding program put in place by the Washington Office, Forest Service to encourage volunteer participation in trail maintenance.  The funding program had $200,000 in 2017 and $400,000 in 2018, generating over 63 projects and $2.8 million dollars in cash and in-kind contributions.  Over 8300 volunteers, staff and trail crew worked hard on the National Forests in these projects.

  • The National Forest Trail System Stewardship Partnership Funding is unavailable in 2019 due to the Forest Service Washington Office moving all “of-the-top” funds to the Regions.  While this may sound good in theory it means Regions may prioritize these funds as they see fit, based on local needs.

  • This funding leverages federal dollars.  Last year the ratio was 7:1.
  • At an allocation of $400,000, this program is less than one half of a percent (.5%) of the Forest Service trails budget of $80 million.

The Ask

In the near future NWSA and our Trail Coalition Partners will be preparing new talking points and a request letter supporting the allocation of funding to the Trail Stewardship Partner Fund in 2020.  We hope that you and your organization will sign on to this letter as we seek to continue to provide trail groups the resources to be successful and assist local units in managing the National Forest Trail System.

In the meantime, feel free to continue to:

  • Contact your Regional Forester to let them know how you value partnership funding and specifically how the National Trail System Stewardship Partnership Funds have helped your organization.  Ask them to participate in continued funding of this partner-oriented effort to engage volunteers in National Forest trail maintenance.

Specifically ask them to:

  • Support the goals of the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Act, including increasing trail maintenance by volunteers on the National Forests.
  • Support the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding as a direct way to encourage volunteerism.
  • Share that this is a cost-effective and efficient way to fund volunteer trail maintenance efforts to implement the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act.  One national cost share agreement is much easier to manage then multiple agreements throughout the agency.  Returns on investment are as high as 7:1.
  • Allocate $30,000 - $100,000 per Region to the Trail Stewardship Partnership Fund this year through the National cost-share agreement starting in 2020.
  • Regardless of whether they contribute funds, encourage Regional Foresters to encourage local units to utilize volunteers in trail maintenance on the National Forests.  Continue to reduce barriers to participation and create incentives to do the work.

National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding - an introduction.

Note:  The 2019 Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding Program is cancelled.  We hope to back up and running in 2020.  The information here has been left to provide a better understanding of the program going into next year.

The National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding Program is intended to encourage and support volunteer and stewardship group trail maintenance accomplishments and trail deferred maintenance backlog on the National Forest trail system.

NWSA is proud to manage this funding program to support the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Partnership Funding Program.  This program directly support the implementation of the National Trails Strategy, which has a goal of doubling volunteer trail work in the next decade.  

Here are a few basics of the Trail Funding Program:

  • Any non-profit group recognized by the IRS may apply for a Trail Stewardship Funding.
  • These grants are for work on any and all National Forest System terra trails.
  • Trail work is usually performed during the Summer/Fall Field Season (May - December).
  • Grants range from $2,000 - $20,000.

Complete information on the Trail Stewardship Grant program can be found in the Fact Sheet.

Click Here for Fact Sheet.

Click Here for News Release.

Each Application requires an:

  • Application Form (available in .docx WORD format)  
  • A Budget Worksheet
  • A Letter of Support from District Ranger or Forest Supervisor
  • A letter of non-profit status from the IRS, unless already on file with NWSA
  • All Projects this year will use Direct Deposit for reimbursements (Direct Deposit form to be submitted if selected)

Questions about the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding may be addressed to Randy Welsh, Executive Director, NWSA at either 801-808-2167 or randy@wildernessalliance.org.

10 Strategies for a Successful Trail Application

Thank you for your support of NWSA and the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Fund.


Summer 2018 National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funded Projects

Final Year End Summary

Trail Projects by Region

Organizations with funded projects during the Summer 2018 Trails Stewardship Program

Alaska Trails
American Endurance Ride Conference
Arizona Trail Association
Back Country Horsemen of America - Mother Lode Chapter
Back Country Horsemen of America - San Joaquin Chapter
Back Country Horsemen of America - Wild Horse Plains Chapter
Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance
Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association
Continental Divide Trail Coalition
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
Friends of Panthertown
Friends of Pathways
Friends of Scotchman Peak Wilderness
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District
Friends of the Shawnee
Idaho Trails Association
LaVeta Trails
Mazamas
Montana Wilderness Association
Mountain Bike the Tetons
National Smokejumpers Association (2 projects)
Northwoods Volunteer Connection
Partners of Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness
Pony Express Association
Redwoods Park Conservancy
Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards
Selway Bitterroot-Frank Church Foundation
SORBA - NEGA Jake-Bull
South Dakota Trails Development
Upper Merced Watershed Council
Southwest Montana Mountain Biking Association
Stewards of the Sequoias
Tucson Off Road Cyclists
Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado
Wallowa Mountain-Hells Canyon Trails Association
Washington Trails Association
Watershed Research Center
Wild South
Wildlands Restoration Volunteers
Wyoming Wilderness Association
Yosemite South Gate Coalition


Summer 2017

Organizations with funded projects during the Summer 2017 Trails Stewardship Program

  • Alaska Trails
  • Arizona Trail Association
  • BCHA - Idaho Foundation
  • BCHA - Washington
  • Boulder MountainBike Alliance
  • Evergreen MBA
  • Friends of Scotchman Peaks
  • Friends of the Desert Mountains
  • Friends of the Dillon Ranger District
  • Friends of the Shawnee
  • Idaho Trails Association
  • Mountain Bike Missoula
  • Mountain Bike the Tetons
  • Northwoods Volunteer Connection/Friends of Boundary Waters Wilderness
  • Partners of JoyceKilmer-Slickrock
  • Prescott Trail Riders
  • Santa Barbara Trail Bike Volunteers
  • Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
  • Stewards of the Sequoias
  • Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado
  • Washington Trails Association
  • Wild South

Showing 2 reactions

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  • Elizabeth Pfeiler
    Thank you for offering a Trails Grant opportunity to non-profits like ours. We struggle to fund projects and increase volunteering opportunities in many wilderness areas across our region. This is a wonderful collaborative resource. We applaud your commitment and effort to help public lands.

    -Beth Pfeiler
    United Trail Maintainers of California
  • Randall Rasmussen
    This is great news. And another sign that our friends at the US Forest Service are doing their best to make trails a high priority. Kudos to them and NWSA for creating this opportunity. We hope to see this become an annual granting program that can be leveraged with outside dollars and resources and made to grow each year.
    Randy Rasmussen, Back Country Horsemen of America