The Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI) is focused on reestablishing and maintaining healthy aquatic and forest ecosystems in national forests through maintenance, repair, and reclamation of forest roads and culverts. The WWRI is supported by a coalition of environmental, outdoor recreation, tribes, and state agencies working together since 2008.
The coalition was instrumental in building the case that eventually led to funding of the federal “Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program” (LRT). From 2008-2012, nearly $20 million of LRT funding has been invested on national forest lands in Washington State and has been used to address problems from the deteriorating road network.
For Fiscal Year 2014, the WWRI coalition recommends the following:
1. Re-invest in the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program with $55 million to allow the Forest Service to make progress in addressing the problems, without jeopardizing our past investments.
To meet the tremendous need, Legacy Roads and Trails funding must be partially increased to compensate for the 50% decrease in FY 2010 funds combined with the cut in road maintenance funding and the cut to the fish passage program in last year's transportation bill. Funding from Legacy Roads and Trails gives the USFS a chance to begin complying with the road maintenance timelines to which they committed over a decade ago and that WA Department of Natural Resources and large private owners are getting close to meeting under the Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan.
2. Continue the comprehensive travel analysis process for each forest - evaluating access needs, environmental risks, and costs of maintaining each forest's road system. This will help set priorities and ensure the system is "rightsized" to today's budgets and recreation and management needs.
Analyzing a forest’s road network and determining which roads are needed for diverse management needs such as fire, forestry, recreation, and private access to in-holdings and which roads are environmentally problematic is the first step. This blueprint will provide a more accurate assessment of which roads need to be repaired, which ones can be reclaimed, and what the projected costs for this work will be. A portion of Legacy Roads and Trails funding should be used to support the Forest Service’s five-year plan to right-size the road system.