WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced investments of more than $37 million to improve vital recreational infrastructure located in national forests and grasslands. These investments are made possible by President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which is dedicating unprecedented resources to improving rural infrastructure, including repairs on national forest lands. The funding, which includes $19 million for recreation sites and $18 million for cottages and historic buildings, aims to improve the country’s recreation infrastructure, which is essential to the health, well-being and to the prosperity of the American people.
“Public lands have seen a remarkable increase in visitor numbers over the past two years as people seek out outdoor experiences during the pandemic. It’s an important reminder that our recreational facilities play a crucial role for so many people,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said. “President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act investments will help ensure that Forest Service facilities continue to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
Over the past two years, outdoor recreation on Forest Service lands and sites has become more popular, with visits to national forests and grasslands peaking at 168 million visits nationwide in 2020. This increase has created challenges and opportunities as the agency seeks to meet new demands. while ensuring the safety of visitors and the health of the environment. Recreation can serve as a driver to support healthy communities, strong businesses, thriving outdoor places, and equitable outdoor recreation opportunities. Providing an excellent visitor experience will also strengthen the ability to conserve and preserve public lands for future generations.
The Forest Service is prioritizing investments that address these challenges and improve recreation sites to accommodate this increase in visitation and better protect the natural resources near these sites. The Forest Service is currently finalizing a list of approved projects, which will be available later this calendar year. Once approved, projects should be implemented within five years.
The agency is also looking closely at tribal contributions. As part of the project selection process, the agency prioritizes investments that consider the needs of tribal communities by recognizing the positive social and economic impacts of improving recreational infrastructure to enable heritage and cultural tourism.
The investments align with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent direction and President Biden’s executive order to take action to restore forests, improve resilience and address the climate crisis. Funding will help ensure recreation sites and cabins are resilient to changing conditions and address risks from floods and wildfires.
Investments in recreation sites will fund maintenance, repairs, building toilets, improving and expanding individual campsites, installing and upgrading power lines and other infrastructure improvements .
Investments in recreational chalets and historic buildings will fund maintenance, repairs and construction of new chalets. The agency will invest $14.4 million of the $18 million available for recreational cabins and historic buildings in cabins located in Alaska’s Tongass and Chugach National Forests. These complement other investments the USDA is making as part of its Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy to support various local economies.
Forest Service-operated cabins are essential to Alaska’s recreational infrastructure. Cabins located in remote locations host thousands of recreators each year and provide protection from demanding conditions. The agency plans a collaborative process that engages Alaska Natives, local Alaskan communities, and other partners to determine where and how to best raise funds to improve cabins and cabin-related infrastructure.
To learn more about how the bipartisan Infrastructure Act invests in critical landscape-scale projects on and around the National Forests and Grasslands, visit the Forest Service website.
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