Bipartisan Legacy Roads and Trails Bill Introduced to Improve Forest Roads and Protect Waterways
On April 22, in honor of Earth Day, U.S. Representatives Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Mike Simpson (ID-02), and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) introduced the bipartisan Legacy Roads and Trails (LRT) Act.
The bill leverages public and private funding to address water quality and access for threatened and endangered species like the Chinook salmon, bull trout, and steelhead.
The LRT program was first conceived in Washington State, where state agencies, private forest landowners, and the USFS committed to addressing their forest road problems – as required by the Endangered Species Act (related to listed salmon runs) and the Clean Water Act.
LRT focuses on addressing our national backlog of deteriorating infrastructure, and does so while protecting American rivers and streams, endangered fish, and community water systems with targeted projects.
The national program was a success from 2008-2018, before funding was cut. In that time, in Washington state alone, $32M was invested to ensure access to forest service lands, protect rivers and streams, restore fish passages, and improve trails.
Since the Legacy Roads and Trails program was subsumed under general road maintenance, critical restoration work has not been completed.
“Chronic underfunding has left a long backlog of projects and I’m proud to present this solution. As we face the increasing threat of climate change and the need to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, we must ensure programs like LRT are part of the dialogue. This is a big win for our environment, our fish, and our forests. I look forward to reintroducing it on the House floor.” – Congresswoman Kim Schrier.
LRT projects include repairing roads and trails used for public access, replacing failed or undersized culverts to reconnect fish habitat, and storm-proofing or reclaiming roads to prevent sediment pollution from entering waterways that are important for salmon, trout, and drinking water. The program is unique in its delivery of environmental, recreational, and economic benefits.
“Having seen the positive results in Washington State, Representatives Kilmer and Schrier understand why this program is so critical for forests across the country,” said Tom Uniack, Executive Director for Washington Wild. “We thank them for taking a leadership role in Congress supporting clean water, salmon habitat, recreational access and local jobs.”
The Legacy Roads and Trails Act authorizes the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program through 2030 and requires the Forest Service to develop a national strategy to carry out the program.