USDA Invests $285 Million to Improve National Forest
USDA Forest Service News Release
WASHINGTON, March 10, 2021 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $285 million to help the Forest Service address critical deferred maintenance and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure on national forests and grasslands.
This $285 million investment is made possible by the newly created National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, established in 2020 by the Great American Outdoors Act. These funds will allow the Forest Service to implement more than 500 infrastructure improvement projects essential to the continued use and enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.
“Our forests and grasslands are one of our nation’s greatest treasures and one of the most effective natural carbon captures that exist to help combat the effects of climate change,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Millions of people each year enjoy forests and grasslands, and these investments will promote public-private partnerships, tourism and recreation, protect public lands, and ensure our national forests are accessible to all. These investments will also serve as a catalyst for rural economic development and employment opportunities.”
Project investments in 2021 will improve recreation facilities, visitor centers, dams and trails. Other projects aim to increase public access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges, tunnels and parking areas.
The Great American Outdoors Act authorizes funding under the Legacy Restoration Fund annually through fiscal year 2025. Forest Service economists estimate that projects funded with these dollars will support roughly 4,400 jobs and contribute $420 million to the gross domestic product.
Forest Service infrastructure supports more than 300 million recreationists, first responders such as wildland firefighters, and other users of Forest Service roads. Each year, visitors to the national forests contribute almost $11 billion to the U.S. economy, which sustains more than 148,000 jobs.
More information about these projects has been posted to https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/gaoa.
Locally on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, recreation program managers are excited to see the significant list of projects awarded to the Forest.
“We’re grateful for such substantial funding to address the failing infrastructure of recreation sites and access routes,” said Recreation, Wilderness Trails, Rivers, Outfitter Program Manager Carol Hennessey. “Addressing the deferred maintenance will improve visitor experiences at recreation sites such as campgrounds and visitor centers as well as improve the experience of ‘getting there’ by addressing access on trails, roads and historic routes.”
Hennessey said that as visitors get out to recreate they may experience inconveniences as maintenance work is taking place.
“We are looking forward to a very busy summer, but one filled with the expectation of improving conditions to provide for better visitor experiences when visiting the Forest,” she said. “We ask for patience and understanding as we invest these funds to improve infrastructure conditions.”
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration under Secretary Vilsack, USDA is committed to transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.