Like most American ski areas, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area operates on U.S. Forest Service land thanks to a federal lease. Shrinking federal budgets to maintain recreational access to public lands mean locals have to be creative to keep trails open and safe.

Western towns surrounded by and dependent upon public lands are forced to get creative as federal recreation budgets continue a slow decline. They are boosting local efforts to maintain public access.

(Image credit: Kirk Siegler/NPR)