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Watershed Restoration Advocacy
The Legacy Roads and Trails Program
When it comes to salmon recovery, removing dams grabs the headlines, and when it comes to forest health, wildfire and thinning projects are in the spotlight. But there is an intersection between these issues that’s equally important, if not yet considered front-page news: reclaiming forest roads. That’s because decaying, unmanaged, under-maintained roads are a top threat to endangered salmon and clean drinking water for thousands of communities, as well as elk, grizzly bears and other wildlife that depend on large blocks of intact habitat to survive.
The Forest Service has accumulated a $10 billion national road maintenance backlog. This backlog could be significantly reduced if the agency invested in road reclamation to lower the overall mileage of roads they are required to maintain over the long-term.
Nationally, the Forest Service estimates that they need to remove an estimated 186,000 miles of roads to bring the road system down to a manageable, maintainable system that still meets the needs of the agency and forest users. A 2003 Wildlands CPR study found that it would cost approximately $93 million per year for about 20 years to implement a national road removal plan. That $93 million would provide between 2,000-3,000 high-wage, high-skill jobs in rural communities, making such an appropriation good for the land and for the communities that depend on the land.
Wildlands CPR leads the effort to address the legacy roads issue in our public lands. After becoming involved in the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative, Wildlands CPR worked with our partner organizations in California, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado to help generate broad western support for the Legacy Roads and Trails Restoration Initiative (Legacy Roads). After its passage (allocating $39.4 million to the Forest Service to reconnect fisheries and protect clean water by addressing roads) we pulled together a quick summary of road removal needs throughout the country, again with help from partner organizations in the states above and in the southeast. We also continue to meet with Forest Service staff in DC to provide input on how the Legacy Roads funding should be distributed nationally, while also providing resources to help build effective road decommissioning programs. We are also working to increase the amount of planning and monitoring allocations of Legacy Roads funds. In December, the Forest Service released their 2011 Final Legacy Roads and Trails Accomplishments report.
In 2009, Wildlands CPR led an effort to get legacy roads-type funding included in the stimulus package. While Legacy Roads wasn't directly funded, Congress did allocate $650 million to the Forest Service for Capital Imrovement and Maintenance, with ~$330 million of that going to road and trail work. The Stimulus bill explicitly states that the funding can be used for decommissioning, in large part due to our efforts to include this concept in the final bill. The Forest Service allocated $25 million of the $330 mentioned above for road reclamation.
In March 2009, Congress passed a new appropriation for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009 allocating $50 million to the Forest Serivce for Legacy Roads - a $10 million increase over the FY 2008 allocation. In May 2009, President Obama included $50 million in Legacy Roads funding as part of his FY10 Presidential budget proposal to Congress. On October 30, 2009, President Obama signed a new FY10 appropriations bill that covered public lands - the bill increased Legacy Roads funding to $90 million for FY10! Although this has now been decreased to $45 million for the last two years, we are preparing again to engage our partners and work to increase funding to a level that allows the Forest Service to make progress in addressing the problems.
Wildlands CPR continues to take the lead in promoting and implementing effective legacy roads restoration policy. Marlies Wierenga, our WA/OR Coordinator, leads the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative. For more details, click on some of the links below (if you click on these links and the attachments do not all seem to be attached, please contact our office).
- Restoration in Action: The First Five Years of the Legacy Roads and Trails Program
- Updated Legacy Roads and Trails Fact Sheet - 2012
- 2012 Roads Investments Pays Off - Siuslaw National Forest (Fact sheet)
- 2011 Final Legacy Roads and Trails accomplishments (Regional/National)
- Great news story about Legacy Roads & Trails on the Lewis and Clark National Forest (MT)
- Excellent FS report about FY10 accomplishments in the Pacific Northwestern region (external link)
- 2011 Regional Legacy Roads and Trails allocations
- State specific Legacy Roads and Trails accomplishment reports (AZ, ID, MT, NM, OR, WA)
- Legacy Roads and Trails: A Two-Year Evaluation (June/2010)
- 2010 Legacy Roads and Trails projects, by Region
- 2009 Final Legacy Roads project accomplishments
- TU Letter of Support For Legacy Roads
- 2010 Regional Funding Allocations
- Western Governors Association Letter to Sec. Vilsak supporting watershed restoration and LRRI
- U.S. Conference of Mayors letter to USDA supporting watershed restoration.
- Compare F08 and FY09 projected accomplishments by region
- Legacy Roads 2009 Projects, by Region
- Review 2008/09 success stories from the Ocala National Forest
- Read the FS Pacific NW regional 2008 accomplishment report
- View the Forest Service final reports (by region) for 2008 Legacy Roads funding
- Read our guidance letter to the Forest Service for stimulus spending
- Read more on the Legacy Roads and Trails Restoration Initiative
- Economic Stimulus and Rural Green Jobs through Watershed Restoration - A Proposal to Congress
- Economic Benefits Arising from Watershed Restoration
- Legacy Roads Monitoring Project Brief
- Partnering Opportunities: NGO's and Watershed Restoration
- Western Governors Association Resolution on Sustainable Forest Roads
- Legacy Roads Funding — Complete List by Project
- Legacy Roads Funding FY08 Region Totals
- FY09 Interior Approps Testimony
- Learn more about Legacy Roads and the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative