LOS ANGELES – Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-39) has introduced multi-billion dollar legislation that will help create new jobs, remove deteriorating roads that damage forest ecosystems and provide emergency appropriations for the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Federal Highway Administration for fiscal year 2010.
Sanchez’ bill, The Public Lands Rehabilitation and Job Creation Act, H.R. 4291, will address years of underfunding for public lands and a large number of deferred maintenance projects that can improve our country’s public lands.
The Wilderness Society is particularly supportive of Sanchez’ inclusion of language that will address the expansive network of roads in the nation’s forests that lead to increased soil erosion, degraded water quality, excessive noise, and fragmentation of wildlife habitats. Some of these roads were built for resource extraction and are now obsolete, while others were never authorized but created by off-road vehicles driving cross-country—a practice that will soon be banned.
“If passed, Rep. Sanchez’ act would create desirable outdoor jobs, provide better facilities for people using the parks and forests, and protect fish and wildlife that live there,” said Matt Dietz, an ecologist for The Wilderness Society. “It’s a win-win-win situation.”
The bill will fund:
- At least $100 million to identify outdated, unneeded, and damaging roads.
- At least $100 million to restore land damaged by unauthorized roads.
- The remaining $300 million may be used for any type of road work, including road maintenance and road decommissioning.
In the fire-devastated San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Los Angeles, the Public Lands Rehabilitation and Job Creation Act may help restore some of the Angeles National Forest’s destroyed or damaged road infrastructure and also create jobs for local communities.
“Returning veterans hit hard by the high unemployment in the San Gabriel Valley will particularly benefit from jobs restoring the Angeles National Forest,” said Irene Esparza Portillo, Executive Director of Project Amiga, a South El Monte social service agency that provides job training and placement for low-income communities across Los Angeles County. “Veterans transition well into these outdoor jobs.”
Other opportunities to improve roads, buildings, and other infrastructure exist in urban and rural areas across the nation, from the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in New York City and Fort Sumter in South Carolina to Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan.
Founded in 1935, The Wilderness Society’s mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. From writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act to winning lasting protection for more than 109 million acres of permanent wilderness across the country, The Wilderness Society is America’s premier public lands conservation organization. Its 500,000 members and supporters are dedicated to protecting America’s iconic wild lands through public education, scientific analysis and advocacy.