The Great American Outdoors Act

Addressing deferred maintenance on National Forests in Colorado

Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, our National Forests host 170 million visits every year. These lands are the foundation of America’s outdoor recreation heritage. The National Forest infrastructure requires maintenance every year, which has been woefully underfunded to keep up with it for some time now. For decades this lack of funding has accumulated billions of dollars in deferred maintenance - or scheduled maintenance that doesn’t get done. Every instance of deferred maintenance puts the U.S. Forest Service even further behind, creating a backlog that keeps growing. Today, the Forest Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $5.2 billion.

With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in 2020, the bill provides federal land management agencies with critical resources to address deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands. Learn more here. The NFF partners with the U.S. Forest Service to engage Americans in the health and public enjoyment of our National Forests and Grasslands, and in several places across the nation, we are working in lockstep with the agency to plan, design, and implement the GAOA. The NFF supports GAOA programming by coordinating projects, issuing sub-awards to partners and leveraging federal funds to raise additional funding for projects.

Trail Restoration on the GMUG National Forests

Approximately 2.27 million visitors recreate on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) annually, based on 2014 data – and that number has most assuredly grown in recent years. However, the trail system suffers from neglect due to competing priorities, limited capacity and funding, plus the enormity of the trail system. Trails in the Colorado Rockies are highly erodible due to severe weather, steep gradients, and a variety of recreational use.

The NFF helps to identify trails for clearing accumulations of down trees, repairing failed drainage structures, and rebuilding lost tread where weather and use has reduced trail quality. To implement trail restoration, the NFF works with Forest Service recreation staff, local trail organizations, volunteer stewardship groups, youth conservation corps and contractors to ensure project completion. More than 40 trails and 220 miles are identified for deferred maintenance over the next 5 years.

Campground Reconstruction on the GMUG and San Isabel National Forests

The NFF is assisting with campground reconstruction at four locations in Colorado – Monarch Park, Deer Lakes, Lake Irwin, and Little Bear campgrounds. The work will have multiple phases with the first being design. This includes surveying the current conditions of the recreation sites and dreaming up new design elements - camping pads for tents, trailers, and RV’s; fire rings and picnic tables; restrooms; walking paths and access to water for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or swimming.

Kiosk Replacement on the GMUG National Forests

Kiosks are critical infrastructure to supply information to visitors about recreation sites, trails, roads, fire restrictions, camping, and much more. The NFF coordinates closely with the GMUG National Forests and partners, including local and regional contractors, to build 49 new kiosk structures, design and print informational posters, and install the new infrastructure on the Forests.

This project started in the fall of 2021, was able to have new infrastructure in the ground in the summer of 2022, and will have informational poster boards up in the spring of 2023.

Alpine Tunnel Restoration

The Alpine Tunnel opened in 1882, and was the highest railroad tunnel in the world at the time. However, the railroad line was abandoned in 1910 due to damage to the tunnel's interior. The abandoned railbed then became popular for off-roading.

The GMUG National Forests had to close a section of the Alpine Tunnel Road in 2016 due to an avalanche that caused significant damage to the Palisade Wall - a retaining wall built with hand-cut, dry-stacked stones.

Following the passage of the GAOA, the GMUG saw an opportunity to submit the Alpine Tunnel project as a priority as resource limitations previously constrained an agency response to repair the Palisade Wall.

NFF is working with the GMUG and a design firm to design and rebuild the historic Palisade Wall and repair the Alpine Tunnel Road.

Fence Replacement on the GMUG National Forests

In the summer of 2022, the NFF partnered with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests to replace buck-and-rail fences at campgrounds in Taylor Canyon in the Gunnison Valley of Colorado.

The project was started in the summer of 2022 and will be completed in the summer of 2023. When complete, a total of 5,898 linear feet of fence will be replaced on the Gunnison Ranger District. Work will also occur on three other Ranger Districts – the Norwood, Ouray, and Grand Valley – for a total of 32,084 linear feet of fence replacement.

GAOA projects focus on improving conditions of public lands for present and future generations – which aligns squarely with the NFF mission to bring people together to restore and enhance our National Forests and Grasslands. Working on behalf of the American public, the NFF is excited to be working side-by-side with the Forest Service and community partners to reduce deferred maintenance and enhance recreation infrastructure for improved visitor experience.


To learn more

Maddie Rehn, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests Project Coordinator, at 970.222.3709 or [email protected]