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Coalition of 178 Stakeholders Advocate for Watershed Restoration and Recreational Access

On Monday, Washington Wild sent a letter to Washington’s U.S. Congressional Delegation urging support for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program by allocating desperately needed $100 million in funding in the FY2024 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill.

Photo: A Washed out road in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, The Chronicle

Built during the heyday of logging, nearly 370,000 miles of roads—nearly eight times the mileage of the Interstate Highway System—crisscross our national forests. The U.S. Forest Service inherited this infrastructure from the logging industry but has never had the resources to maintain it. Left to fall into disrepair, the legacy of these forest roads and trails are clogged culverts blocking fish passage, erosion of critical riparian habitat leading to poor water quality, and washed-out roads that limit public access.


Founded in 2008, the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program is a targeted, results-oriented, and collaborative solution to this issue. For the next ten years, the Legacy Roads and Trails program received $430 million nationally, with $32 million invested in Washington’s National Forests. Creating hundreds of high-paying jobs, local contractors were able to upgrade over 100 miles of trails, fix 55 stream crossings and bridges, decommission 250 miles of failing roads, and maintain over 2,000 miles of roads. These improvements helped protect drinking water for communities throughout the state, restore critical riparian habitat, restore fish passage to spawning grounds, and ensure safe access for U.S. Forest Service staff and outdoor enthusiasts to our beloved public lands.

Photo: WTA volunteer crew repairing the Martin Creek Trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, U.S. Forest Service

Despite the program’s success in delivering a trifecta of benefits—environmental, economic, and recreational—2018 marked a shift in support, with the Legacy Roads and Trails program repeatedly defunded until it was reinstated and permanently authorized as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021. While we cheered this renewed commitment to the LRT program, the backlog of maintenance projects has only grown, and the $40 million in funding allocated was not nearly enough to meet the need. Of that total, just over $6 million landed in Washington and was exclusively allocated to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 

Nationwide, the U.S. Forest Service has identified a backlog of over $4.4 billion in deferred maintenance projects, with more than 400 high-priority culvert projects requiring nearly $110 million for just one year. And as the climate crisis continues to progress, fueling extreme weather events such as flooding and wildfires, these roads that are already in rough shape continue to take a beating. The longer we wait to act, the bigger and more severe the problem becomes. 

Read the full letter.