Letters From the West

Forest road program leverages dollars to stop erosion

trail crewA federal program that restores water quality to western streams where old roads at been bleeding sediment is declared a success by two groups that studied it.

The Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program, approved by Congress five years ago to restore water quality and improve recreational access, has improved 12,053 miles of forest roads nationally. The $270 million program filled the pothole between the roadless rule that closed of millions of acres of national forest to new roads and the agency’s continuing need to address a maintenance backlog of its needed roads and trails.
He program reconnects wildlife habitat and improve water quality by decommissioning 4,510 miles of unneeded roads, restored more than 1,000 miles of fish habitat, fixed 3,215 miles of trails, created up to 1,296 green jobs and cut annual road maintenance costs by $3 million per year.
One of the ways the program has been a success is by leveraging funds from others. For instance on the Clearwater National Forest a $70,000 commitment from the legacy program attracted another $100,000 for the Nez Perce Tribe that with another $35,000 from other Forest Service funds closed 24 miles of obsolete roads, fixed four miles of needed roads and helped improve salmon and steelhead habitat.
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see how broadly this program is supported, with hundreds of partners across the country matching these projects with leveraged dollars and volunteer time,” said Brad Brooks, of The Wilderness Society in Boise, one of the two groups that sponsored the study.

The other group was Wildlands CPR.
“The program is a cornerstone of the agency’s growing commitment to watershed restoration,” said Adam Rissien, Policy Specialist for Wildlands CPR.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West