A push for improving trails and roads in Montana

Jan 28, 2010

BOZEMAN - If Congress complies with the conservation community’s recommendations for 2011, forest restoration and road remediation in Montana could soon represent a stronger economic engine for the state.

The Wilderness Society, along with 33 other conservation and wildlife organizations, has released this year’s “Green Budget”— an annual proposal to strengthen federal funding for the environmental programs that fund lands and wildlife, energy, transportation, air, water, public health, and oceans. Click here to see a short video about the need to invest in a green economy, find full report, obtain photos, etc.

One component of the Green Budget recommends increasing funding for the Legacy Roads and Trail Remediation Fund to $150 million. In Montana, this ‘legacy’ funding is used to help the state get a handle on the thousands of miles of National Forest roads that are not being appropriately maintained or that the U.S. Forest Service says it no longer needs.

“We think new legacy investments should be considered for our nation’s forests, where it will pay local dividends in the form of new jobs, clean water, public safety, improved fish and wildlife habitat,” said Joe Kerkvliet, a resource economist with The Wilderness Society.

In 2008, Legacy Road and Trail Remediation funding provided $2 million for the repair, maintenance, and decommissioning of Forest Service roads and trails in 12 different Montana counties. Kerkvliet projects this funding to have created 35 jobs and an additional half a million dollars worth of sales for Montana businesses.

Additional funding for more projects could immediately employ more foresters, environmental engineers, heavy equipment operators, fish and water quality experts, and other professionals.

In its first year in office, President Obama’s administration has reversed many environmentally detrimental Bush policies and introduced critical legislation to transition toward a green energy economy. In order to continue this progress for the next year, adequate funding must be allocated to create green jobs, conserve our natural resources and protect wildlife. The “Green Budget” provides Congress with a potential road map to accomplish that objective while also strengthening key environmental programs. The coalition has also offered suggestions to slash spending by some $19.8 billion a year in order to offset the investments in a green-friendly economy.

“We heard President Obama and we recognize the need for the federal government to tighten its belt, which is why we’re calling on Congress and the administration to eliminate wasteful spending.” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “Frugality is key, and we must continue to invest in the kind of environmental initiatives that create jobs and protect our natural resources.”