On March 16, Washington Wild sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray requesting additional funding be allocated to the recently reinstated Legacy Roads and Trails program to jumpstart the backlog of repairs and improvements needed for watershed protection.
The letter—undersigned by 183 conservation, recreation and wildlife organizations, elected officials, and local businesses— expresses gratitude for the recent reinstation of the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Legacy Roads and Trails Program authorized in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. While the reinstated program includes a small amount of seed funding, more is needed to address the backlog of infrastructure projects on national forests that were neglected for 3 years due to defunding.
The letter asks that $100m be allocated to Legacy Roads and Trails in the Fiscal Year 2023 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill.
With committed funding in FY 2023, we can expect to see progress such as:
- Restored fish passage on key streams by fixing culverts while also protecting roads from storms;
- Improved water quality by reclaiming unneeded roads, preventing sediment from entering waterways; and,
- Ensured access to Forest Service lands by storm-proofing roads and trails.
The Legacy Roads and Trails program was a national program that benefitted visitors to national forests and improved waterways across the U.S. for a decade. From 2008-2018, thanks in large part to the support of Washington’s Congressional delegation, this unique, job-producing bi-partisan program invested nearly $32 million in Washington State leading to better water quality in streams, reconnected waterways for fish migration and more resilient road and trail infrastructure.
Moreover, Legacy Roads and Trails created or maintained 330-528 jobs annually across the nation, bringing dollars and jobs into rural communities, and saving America’s taxpayers $3 million per year in road maintenance costs.
With funding cut by congress, the last three years have created a backlog of neglected projects that have worsened with the barrage of storms. As climate change drives extreme weather, it’s crucial that we make investments to repair and strengthen infrastructure now.
This past winter, the back-to-back atmospheric river events have once again highlighted what happens when national forest infrastructure is neglected: culverts plug, roads wash out, salmon eggs are buried, access is lost and repair costs skyrocket.
The Legacy Roads and Trails program is specifically designed to identify, target and fix road and trail problems now before they get exponentially worse.v Providing additional funding of $100m in FY 2023 to this reinstated program will make up the sorely needed lost ground of the last three years.