George Washington National Forest

GW National Forest Plan

IMBA GWNF documents

Background on the Plan

Every 15 years or so the National Forest creates a new plan under which a specific Forest will be managed. The plan greatly influences how district rangers and Forest Service Employees manage their individual forests and make day to day decisions. The George Washington National Forest Plan stalled two years ago due to a national lawsuit that required the Forest Service to change some of the procedural rules concerning drafting the plan. We are currently in the draft stage of the plan and the Forest Service is taking Public comments on the draft plan that they have already crafted.

The roadmap of the plan is more than mildly confusing and as such the Forest Service has put together a pretty good slideshow to try and explain the details. That slideshow can be found here:

The head Forest Planner has written a good letter that provides the clearest means to explore the documents that pertain to the plan. The letter and the documents can be found here: Update on the George Washington National Forest Plan Revision

Background on the George Washington National Forest

At 1.1 million acres, Virginia’s George Washington National Forest (GWNF) is the largest National Forest in the eastern United States. The GWNF stretches along both sides of the Shenandoah Valley and portions of the central Blue Ridge, and can be reached in less than two hours from both Washington, D.C. and Richmond.

The GWNF provides some of the best recreational opportunities in the nation, especially for mountain biking. For many years, mountain bikers have been working to protect and preserve the natural resources, beauty and mountain bike trail access of the GWNF.

Some trails in the GWNF have unsustainable alignments and use old extraction routes. These do little to showcase the landscape of the forest and often result in resource damage from erosion caused by poor design. Long term replacement of unsustainable trails with sustainable, shared trails would reduce maintenance costs and provide a higher quality recreation experience.

What you need to know

The public plays a large role in shaping the plan, we are currently in the public comment period which means that the Forest Service needs to hear from YOU. Whether you can make it out to one of the meetings or simply submit a comment every bit helps. Let Forest Service planners know that you are an avid trail user and that you do not want to see trails closed to mountain biking. You can also emphasize what you would like to see different in the forest. For example, the creation of more sustainable beginner/intermediate singletrack trails.

The 1993 GWNF Plan, which is currently being revised, called for new trails. When all is said and done we want to make sure that this plan does not call for a reduction in the total number of trails. As avid trail users we are looking for “No net loss of trail mileage.”

Don’t be afraid to talk about specific threatened areas. For example, proposals exist for Big Schloss and Whetstone Ridge (Adams Peak) to become Potential Wilderness areas that could help persuade Congress to one day make these areas Wilderness, which would end trail access for mountain bikes.

Feel free to comment on anything that you would like to see changed in the forest, such as the amount of logging, water quality controlled burns, etc. Most importantly, make sure you identify yourself as a mountain biker and express your concerns as an active user group. Mountain bikers do a large portion of the trail work in the George Washington National Forest and we are a responsible user group that cares about the future of the GWNF.

As mountain bikers we are advocating for shared use trails and hopefully the eventual creation of stacked loop systems. Sometimes all these terms are confusing so here are some of the reasons why we think that they are a good idea for the forest.

Shared use trail opportunities such as stacked loops near the forest edge at lower elevations have many advantages

  • They disperse use over more loops.
  • They reduce reliance on paved roads to create loop rides.
  • They encourage the use of forests by kids and less fit hikers and bikers by offering less challenging opportunities that require less climbing.
  • They increase recreation tourism through improved trails.
  • Dispersing use ensures that in 10 years, there is a still a backcountry experience that offers solitude.


If you cannot attend a meeting or even if you do, please send your written comments, postmarked by May 7, 2010, to

George Washington Plan Revision
George Washington & Jefferson National Forests
5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, Virginia 24019-3050

Or you can email your comments to:comments-southern-[email protected] Please write “Comment on George Washington Plan Revision” in the subject line of your post.

Public input meetings are as follows:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 (6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
Woodstock National Guard Armory
541 Hoover Road
Woodstock, VA 22664

Thursday, April 29, 2010 (6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
Augusta County Government Center
19 Government Lane
Verona, VA 24482

Where can I Get More Information?

Definitions of Important terms can be found here:

For more Information about the plan revision and draft documents visit the forest service website:

If you have any specific questions about the plan, the process, what you can do to help or if you simply want more information please feel free to contact either Kyle Lawrence or Chris Scott

External Links

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