Speak up for restoration funding on national forests
Conservation Northwest / Apr 08, 2021 / Action Alert, Forest Field Program, Forest Roads, National Forests, Recreation
WILD NW Action Alert #321: Ask your Members of Congress to reinstate and fund the Legacy Roads and Trails program to benefit wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and restoration jobs
For 10 years, the Legacy Roads and Trails program served as a cornerstone of restoration across national forest lands. It was the type of program Congress loves: it benefitted drinking water, salmon, bull trout and elk habitat, and recreationists; saved taxpayer dollars and leveraged millions more; offered built-in accountability; boasted support across the aisle; and sustained high-wage jobs in rural economies. The type of program that fits precisely within the new Administration’s climate adaptation and infrastructure goals.
But Congress stopped funding the program three years ago. Please take action today by urging lawmakers to revive and fully fund this program!
Since then, we have seen restoration work in Washington’s national forests come to a near halt. Even though more than 1,000 culverts need fixing for fish passage, eight were fixed last year in only one of the six national forests in the state. While the state looks to save critically endangered orcas, key Chinook salmon spawning grounds in national forest headwaters are ignored.
As private forest landowners complete their road-related obligations, spending over $315 million, the federal forest negligence puts these investments at risk. And as Washingtonians #GoOutside supporting the $21 billion recreation industry, they are losing access where storms take out unstable roads and trails.
Every day our Forest Field Program Team works to ensure that the restoration of our forests will provide resilient habitat for Washington’s fish and wildlife species, and clean water for downstream communities. The repair, closure, and/or decommissioning of old forest service roads is pivotal to our success.
In our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program, the absence of Legacy Roads and Trails funding is reducing opportunities to engage on already identified road work in the Green and White river watersheds that provide spawning grounds for Chinook, coho, and steelhead, and that supply fresh drinking water to south Puget Sound communities.
We are frustrated, but we refuse to give in. It is time for funding to be reinstated and the agency to reprioritize sustainable and proactive road management. We have a chance to save Legacy Roads and Trails—but we can only succeed if Congress hears your voice.
With your help, we can send a strong message to Congress! Please ask your legislators to reinstate and fund the Legacy Roads and Trails program using our simple form, or feel free to copy and paste our suggested comments below and contact your legislators directly.
Suggested letter to Congress to reinstate and fund the Legacy Roads and Trails Program:
I am writing to thank you for being a champion of national forest lands and waters, and to ask for your support in reinstating and funding the Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails program at $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill.
For 10 years, the program ensured access to Forest Service lands by maintaining needed roads; protected rivers and streams by reclaiming unneeded roads, preventing sediment from entering waterways; restored fish passage by fixing culverts at road/stream crossings, boosting Washington’s $1.1B sportfishing industry and advancing salmon restoration goals; and improved trails, keeping the $535M national forest recreation industry going strong.
I benefit from public lands like many other Washingtonians who hike through our mountains, drive dirt roads to campsites, fish in streams, and bike along trails. I have seen the need to repair and maintain access to wildlands, while protecting clean water for fish and millions of people who rely on national forest lands for drinking water. Legacy Roads and Trails is a program that strategically targets one of the greatest restoration needs on our public lands – addressing environmental harm from an oversized and deteriorating road system.
For ten years, the Legacy Roads and Trails program was funded by Congress to tackle infrastructure challenges, but was discontinued in 2018. Now with the renewed focus on infrastructure, Legacy Roads and Trails is a perfect tool and has the track-record to easily meet current goals. Highly effective programs with such a diverse range of benefits – job creation, water quality protection, recreational access improvement, fish and wildlife habitat restoration, and high-wage jobs – need to be protected and promoted.
For these reasons and because Legacy Roads and Trails has proven success, I ask you to fund the program at $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill.