Recently the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that $503 million would be aimed at improving outdoor recreation and conservation on National Forests.
Recently, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing more than half a billion dollars through the Great American Outdoors Act to address deferred maintenance, improve infrastructure, increase user access and support rural economies while also meeting conservation goals.
Dr. Bronaugh made the announcement near the Denny Creek and Franklin Falls trailheads, both popular recreation sites along the I-90 corridor and part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area. The area is part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Project, which received more than $14 million from the Great American Outdoors Act in Fiscal Year 2021. Dr. Bronaugh announced that this fiscal year, the area would receive an additional $7.1 million to upgrade failing infrastructure and improve experiences for the more than 1.5 million visitors that come to the site every year.
According to the press release:
“Projects like the one here on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest have incredible impacts on how visitors experience their national forests and grasslands,” said Dr. Bronaugh. “The Great American Outdoors Act and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are betting on America — our special places, our communities and our people. Even beyond improved access, facilities and infrastructure, these investments create economic opportunity and good jobs where projects like this have the most impact.”
Total funding for the Great American Outdoors Act is split between the Legacy Restoration Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act, we have already seen tremendous impact on our ability to enhance visitor access and land conservation efforts through the Legacy Restoration Fund and Land and Water Conservation Fund projects,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Repairing and enhancing the infrastructure on the national forests and grasslands and expanding forest conservation ensures that the Forest Service continues to meet the need for outdoor recreation for current and future generations.”
The Legacy Restoration Fund focuses on addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance on federally managed public lands and is providing $285 million for 450 projects in 38 states and Puerto Rico. In addition to the work on the Mountains to Sound Greenway Project, examples include improving campgrounds on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and rebuilding roads leading to popular trails, campgrounds and wilderness areas on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. More information on these and other Legacy Restoration Fund programs can be found on this user-friendly online dashboard.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund received permanent funding through the Great American Outdoors Act, and expands Forest Service conservation efforts on national, state and private lands through voluntary land acquisition. This fiscal year, the Forest Service is investing $218 million into these programs, launching 25 new projects to open up new fishing, hunting and recreation opportunities across tens of thousands of acres nationwide. One example is the Montana Great Outdoors Conservation Project, a $20 million investment to improve public access to forests in Montana for hiking, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, berry picking and more. The project both improves access to previously disconnected lands and protects the land from non-forest uses, which is home to many species of concern, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, gray wolves, and several fish species.