MIDDLEBURY >> A pilot program in Vermont is trying to keep backcountry skiers from illegally cutting down trees to open up trails.

Officials with the Green Mountain National Forest are hoping the Brandon Gap project will curb the unsanctioned cutting and expand terrain at the same time. Large amounts of illegal cutting were discovered on state lands in Middlebury.

Vermont Public Radio reports volunteers have been thinning trees and brush under the supervision of National Forest Service personnel for the past several weeks.

Green Mountain National Forest district recreational program manager Holly Knox says a 210-acre parcel of national forest straddling the towns of Rochester, Goshen and Chittenden is being used as testing ground.

The size of all new ski trails will be limited to between 15 and 30 feet wide.