National Forest Watersheds, Imperiled Wildlife, Rural Communities Poised for a Much-Needed Boost

The U.S. House of Representatives announced the Moving Forward Act, designed to improve green infrastructure and reduce climate impacts. The Act includes a provision called the “The Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program.” This much-needed program will address aging and obsolete Forest Service transportation infrastructure to improve fish migration, water quality, imperiled species habitat, and future resilience to storms.

The U.S. Forest Service manages a massive road and trail system on behalf of the American public, including more than 370,000 miles of roads, 159,000 miles of trails, hundreds of thousands of culverts and more than 13,000 bridges. Twice as many miles as the national highway system, the Forest Service road system demands considerably more maintenance attention than current funding allows and every year the deferred maintenance backlog grows. The Forest Service currently reports an astounding $3.2 billion road maintenance backlog.

The implications of decaying and abandoned infrastructure are severe. Crumbling roads bleed sediment into rivers, creeks, and wetlands endangering fish and other aquatic wildlife. Failing and undersized culverts block fish migration crucial for the long-term survival of salmon and other highly valued fish. Fragmented habitat impacts the health of imperiled species and big game.

The Legacy Roads and Trails program will benefit local communities and imperiled wildlife. The program will storm-proof roads and trails so that they can withstand more intense storms anticipated with climate change without polluting waterways. Obsolete roads will be decommissioned to preclude harmful effects to wildlife and the environment. Undersized and blocked culverts will be removed or expanded to allow fish to migrate unimpeded.

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