Schrier Announces Bill to Improve Forest Roads and Watershed Health Included in House Infrastructure Package

June 26, 2020
Press Release

ISSAQUAH, WA – Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) announced today that her bill to authorize funding for Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program under the U.S. Forest Service will be included in the upcoming House infrastructure bill, the Moving Forward Act (HR 2).

“As our climate changes, we are seeing many more ‘hundred-year events’ than our current forest road infrastructure can sustain,” said Rep. Schrier. “The Legacy Roads and Trails Program addresses failing infrastructure on Forest Service lands to protect water quality and habitat for threatened and endangered species. In Washington State this program has been particularly important for facilitating hundreds of culvert repairs for fish passage. Chronic underfunding has left a long backlog of projects. This is a big win for our state, our fish, and our forests, and I look forward to voting for it on the House floor.”

“Our federal forests are key drivers of our local economies, but the Forest Service roads and trails that folks rely on to access these assets are facing significant challenges – including failing culverts that block fish passage, damage water quality, and threaten the structural integrity of critical access roads. The Legacy Roads and Trails legislation will ensure that the federal government steps up to remove these failing culverts and address other critical infrastructure challenges to protect the health of our salmon and improve the safety and accessibility of these roads and trails for generations to come. I appreciate Rep. Schrier’s leadership and partnership on this issue that’s a big priority for the folks I represent,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06).

The Forest Service uses roads for resource management, including restoration, vegetation management and fire control. Many roads are not drivable, obsolete, or causing harm to aquatic resources.  When roads are not adequately maintained, culverts become clogged with debris, landslides occur, bridges weaken, and roads wash out. Large amounts of sediment can end up in mountain streams, suffocating fish and burying stream channels. Hazards such as washouts due to culvert failures pose serious safety risks to those driving on forest roads, at times even making access impossible. Of the 15,065 sub-watersheds across the National Forest System, 67% are negatively affected by inadequately maintained roads.

The Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program (LRT) provides funding to the Forest Service to address failing infrastructure that is causing adverse impacts top degraded water resources, drinking water, and fish and wildlife habitat.

LRT projects can include removal or replacement of stream crossing structures, including culverts, that are barriers to aquatic organism passage; urgently needed road decommissioning, where inaction can lead to water quality issues; and associated activities in environmentally sensitive areas.

“Having seen the positive results in Washington State, Representatives Kilmer and Schrier understand why this program is so critical for forests across the country,” said Tom Uniack, Executive Director for Washington Wild. “We thank them for taking a leadership role in Congress supporting clean water, salmon habitat, recreational access and local jobs.”

“Representative Schrier’s Legacy Roads and Trails bill provides a smart solution to reduce the harmful impacts of poorly maintained national forest roads on water quality and fish, while also providing much-needed jobs and economic benefits to rural communities,” said Megan Birzell, Washington State Director for The Wilderness Society. 

 “Permanent funding for the U.S. Forest Service’s legacy roads and trails program has been a long time in the making and is a victory for people who love the outdoors and threatened and endangered species. Confronting the problem of obsolete and decaying roads and trails will help wildlife, taxpayers and the 66 million Americans who rely on our National Forests for clean drinking water. Thank you to Rep. Kim Schrier for her leadership in introducing legislation that is so important for endangered fish and wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO and president, Defenders of Wildlife.

 “Over 60 million Americans rely on clean drinking water flowing from lands managed by the Forest Service,” said Marlies Wierenga, WildEarth Guardians. “Representatives Kilmer and Schrier know how effective the Legacy Roads and Trails program is at reducing threats to our vital forest water supplies, not only in the Pacific Northwest, but across the nation.”

 “The Forest Service should be removing old roads, not building new ones,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, Senior Legislative Representative at Earthjustice. “That’s why we are so thankful to Congresswoman Schrier for introducing this Legacy Roads and Trails legislation that will invest needed dollars and give shape to an initiative that will help protect the population of everything from Grizzly Bears to bull trout, not to mention strengthening our forests for carbon sequestration. This proposal is the right one to ensure our forests are climate resilient, and Earthjustice is proud to support it.”

 “We are so pleased to see that Representative Schrier is stepping up to enhance U.S. Forest Service lands and the incredible coldwater habitat they provide for trout and salmon,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited said. “Forty percent of all blue-ribbon trout streams flow across national forests, and this agency is one of our most important partners. Investments from the Legacy Roads and Trails Program will help us make fishing better, but at the same time improve our water supplies and bring high-paying jobs to rural communities.”