Yesterday, June 6, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing over 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.
According to a press release, Bronaugh made the announcement near the Denny Creek and Franklin Falls trailheads, two popular recreation spots 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 was awarded more than $14 million through the Great American Outdoors Act in Fiscal Year 2021.
Bronaugh announced that the area would be awarded an additional $7.1 million this fiscal year to repair failing infrastructure and enhance the experience for more than 1.5 million visitors who visit the area each year.
“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, communities, and people. Even beyond improved access, facilities, and infrastructure, these investments create economic opportunity and good jobs where projects like this have the most impact.”
The Great American Outdoors Act funding is divided 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 provides $285 million for 450 projects in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
Apart from work on the Mountains to Sound Greenway Project, examples include the improvement of campgrounds in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and the reconstruction of roads leading to popular campgrounds, trails, and wilderness areas on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been granted permanent funding by the Great American Outdoors Act, and it 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.
The project improves access to previously untapped lands and shields the forest from non-forest uses, home to many species of concern, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, gray wolves, and several fish species.
To learn more about the Great American Outdoors Act, visit www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/gaoa.