Cantwell Announces $1 Million Increase for Repairing Forest Service Roads in WA
2015 budget adds funding to repair or remove aging Forest Service roads that damage watersheds and fish habitat
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, announced a $1 million increase for conservation work in Washington state through the U.S. Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program. The increase for 2015 will go toward repairing or closing aging Forest Service roads that are deteriorating and causing damage to streams and culverts, and are at risk of erosion and washouts.
In a February 25 letter to U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Jim Peña, Cantwell said she sought additional funding to address an “urgent need” to reduce the Forest Service road system’s impact on watersheds in Washington state.
“I strongly support the work of the Legacy Roads and Trails Program and am particularly pleased with its ability to address the environmental problems that have been created by the Forest Service’s extensive, old road and trail system,” Cantwell wrote. “This additional funding will translate into more restored watersheds, increased water quality, expanded fish and wildlife habitat, and improved roads that ensure visitors’ safe access.”
The Forest Service manages 372,000 miles of forest roads nationwide, with 22,000 of them in Washington state. The Legacy Roads and Trails Program was authorized in 2008 to decommission or repair old roads and trails that were developed to move timber decades ago and have fallen in disrepair. The program emphasizes areas where Forest Service roads may contribute to decreased water quality in streams and water bodies.
“More restoration is needed, and this is particularly true for my state. In Washington, 86 percent of our citizens get their drinking water from these National Forest System lands,” Cantwell’s letter said.
The Forest Service’s Region 6, which includes Washington and Oregon, will receive $7.2 million for the Legacy Roads and Trails Program in 2015, up from $5.5 million in 2014. Of that increase, $1 million is reserved for Washington state’s five national forests, which include the Olympic National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Colville National Forest.
“We will be able to use this funding in partnership with Washington State and other organizations on projects that improve water quality and fish habitat,” said Regional Forester Jim Peña with the U.S. Forest Service. “For example, specific projects include the final critical road decommissioning and stabilization in the Skykomish River watershed, a Priority Watershed in the Puget Sound. They also include critical road restoration work in the Skokomish River watershed on the Olympic Peninsula and Trout Creek on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.”
Full text of the letter is below:
Regional Forester Jim Peña
Pacific Northwest Region
U.S. Forest Service
1220 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97204
Subject: Thank you for securing the requested increase in Legacy Roads and Trails
Dear Regional Forester Peña:
I write to thank you for your collaboration in funding an additional $1 million for work in the State of Washington this fiscal year, based on the increased allocation your Region received for the Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program. I have learned that the Regional increase will be entirely dedicated to roads work in five national forests in Washington. Thank you for your leadership on this issue and for recognizing its importance to the State of Washington’s environment and its citizens.
I strongly support the work of the Legacy Roads and Trails Program and am particularly pleased with its ability to address the environmental problems that have been created by the Forest Service’s extensive, old road and trail system. The program has been a success since inception, is smartly and skillfully managed, and it achieves on-the-ground results, practically instantly. However, more restoration is needed, and this is particularly true for my State. In Washington, 86% of our citizens get their drinking water from these National Forest System lands.
I originally requested an increase in the amount allocated to Washington due to three reasons. First, Region 6 is in urgent need of these targeted funds to reduce watershed impacts from the Forest Service Roads system. The Forest Service Watershed Condition Framework assessment concluded that 78% of the watersheds in our Region are negatively impacted by roads. Second, Region 6 is disproportionately burdened with the distribution of roads in need of attention across the system. Lastly, the staff on our National Forests have developed an efficiently managed program that targets investments based on the Northwest Forest Plan Aquatic Conservation Strategy and the Watershed Condition Class Framework—an important initiative to focus Forest Service work in its most important watersheds. Forest Service staff both in the Regional Office and at the Forest-level have worked well with important partners (e.g., Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative).
Region 6 received $5.5 million for Legacy Roads and Trails in FY 2014. I am excited to see the increase to $7.2 million in FY 2015 of which $1 million of this year’s increase is going to the five National Forests in Washington. The increase in funding will allow for a tremendous gain in the work of the Forest Service, and help the Agency and its partners get the job done. This additional funding will translate into more restored watersheds, increased water quality, expanded fish and wildlife habitat, and improved roads that ensure visitors’ safe access.
Thank you again for assisting me in this important matter.
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