Conservationists Applaud the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program

Apr 15, 2013
Five-Year Review Shows Program Exceeding Expectations

Five-Year Review Shows Program Exceeding Expectations

Today, two conservation organizations released a report highlighting the accomplishments of the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program. Initiated by Congress five years ago to restore water quality and improve recreational access, it addresses severe safety and environmental problems associated with forest roads and trails. 

Issued by Wildlands CPR and The Wilderness Society, “Restoration in Action: The First Five Years of the Legacy Roads and Trails Program,” finds that the Legacy Roads and Trails Program is exceeding expectations. “The work has helped restore watersheds and improve water quality and fish habitat, and at the same time provided jobs that are desperately needed in our rural communities,” said former Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), one of the driving forces behind the program’s creation.

Since the program’s inception, Congress has appropriated $270 million to the program, and the Forest Service has distributed those funds to national forests across the country to:

  • Reconnect wildlife habitat and improve water quality by decommissioning 4,510 miles of unneeded roads;
  • Ensure safe recreational access for the public and improve how roads stand up to powerful storms by maintaining and/or storm-proofing 12,053 miles of needed roads;
  • Restore more than 1,000 miles of upstream habitat for fish and other aquatic species by re-establishing fish passage at 823 sites;
  • Improve recreational opportunities by upgrading or fixing 3,215 miles of trails;
  • Enhance rural economies by creating or maintaining an average of 810-1,296 high-wage green jobs annually; and
  • Save taxpayer dollars by reducing annual road maintenance costs by approximately $3 million per year.

The Legacy Roads and Trails Program enables local partners to engage in watershed restoration projects that are most important to them. “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 Mike Anderson of The Wilderness Society. “The Forest Service should be proud of what it’s accomplished with the Legacy Roads and Trails program.”

"One of the primary causes of fish habitat degradation is sediment runoff from poorly maintained roads and trails in our national forests,” said Sam Davidson, California Field Director for Trout Unlimited.  “The Legacy Roads and Trails Program has made a real difference in our efforts to protect and restore cold water fish habitat, water quality, and native trout and salmon populations.”

With agency budgets shrinking consistently over the last few years, government programs are undergoing scrutiny to determine whether they are meeting expectations. With the five-year review of the program complete, it’s clear that Legacy Roads and Trails stands up to that scrutiny and thus deserves continued support. “Each dollar invested through Legacy Roads and Trails helps reduce taxpayer liabilities, while creating jobs and cleaning the environment. Legacy Roads is a legislative trifecta. We can achieve all three goals by supporting a single program,” said Bethanie Walder, Executive Director of Wildlands CPR.