Trails Report: National Trail System turns 50: FSPW All Stars are going to work

FSPW All Stars cranking up for another trail season

The National Trail System is 50 years old this year, though many of the trails in the Scotchmans are much older. The National Trail System Act (NTSA) was signed into law in October of 1968 by the same president who signed the Wilderness Act four years earlier, Lyndon B. Johnson. The NTSA was actually inspired by Johnson himself in a 1965 State of the Union address, in which he said, “The beauty of our land is a natural resource. Its preservation is linked to the inner prosperity of the human spirit. The tradition of our past is equal to today’s threat to that beauty. Our land will be attractive tomorrow only if we organize for action and rebuild and reclaim the beauty we inherited. Our stewardship will be judged by the foresight with which we carry out these programs.”

Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness volunteers and staff, including our backcountry ranger intern, have been working to keep the trails in the Scotchmans open and in good shape since our first trail project in 2010 with the Sandpoint District on Scotchman Peak Trail #65. Since then, FSPW has provided thousands of hours of human power repairing tread, building waterbars, cutting brush, clearing blowdowns, and even building entirely new sections of trail to replace old alignments that were unsustainable or horrific to hike because they were not designed correctly in the first place.
In the early 20th century, trails were often built in a hurry to accommodate the desire to fight all fires and fight them quickly. But many werealso built that have stood the test of time. The trails that Granville Gordon, first ranger on the Cabinet National Forest, built to what we now call Star Peak, on Pilik Ridge and in Star Gulch, are fine examples of the craft of trail building.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NTSA, FSPW continues their trail work this summer with 11 days in the proposed Wilderness, including work on each of the three districts. The schedule begins with a cross-cut saw training day on Historic Star Peak Trail #999 on June 2 (National Trails Day) and ends with a workday on National Public Lands Day, September 29, on Morris Creek Trail #134 and Regal Creek Trail #556 in the Lightning Creek National Forest Foundation Treasured Landscape.

The trails FSPW and other groups work on benefit hikers, hunters, berry pickers, fishers, backpackers and stock users. As partners, the FSPW crew works alongside youth crews from the Montana Conservation Corps and regular USFS trail crews. The help FSPW gives the Forest Service in maintaining these trails has resulted in strong partnerships marked by mutual respect and cooperative effort on not only trails, but weed mitigation, white bark pine restoration, stream bank restoration and outdoor education. In the next 50 years of the National Trail System, trail work done by partner groups like FSPW, Backcountry Horsemen, Cabinet Resource Group and motorized recreation groups to keep trails open and sustainable will remain an important part of Forest Service plans for the National Trail System.

To learn more about trail work in the Scotchmans, write to or visit

To find out about other USFS volunteer opportunities, visit

The 2018 Trail Schedule can be found on this page or at

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Categories: Right Now
About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (, which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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