Standing next to a classic old-school U.S. Forest Service sign on a sunny early June day, Representative Kim Schrier (WA-08) spoke passionately about national forests and the need to restore lands and waters. While her words occasionally were impacted by noisy cars passing on a nearby road, she was speaking about other roads—the maze of Forest Service roads that impact how wildlife use forests, how fish use streams, and how people access trailheads. Just in Washington State, the “legacy” of a century of unconstrained logging, grazing, and mining has left over 20,000 miles of forest roads—enough to drive from Seattle to D.C. eight times. Nationally, there are over 370,000 miles of roads on National Forest System lands. Doesn’t that seem like too much?
Most people agree. And there is a simple solution—fix the forest roads we use and rewild the ones we don’t. Fund maintenance budgets for roads to campgrounds and trailheads. Fund Legacy Roads and Trails budgets to reconnect wildlife habitat, reestablish soils to infiltrate water and sprout new seedlings, and remove old barriers in rivers and streams.
The group quickly left the noisy roadway and headed into the woods for the day’s highlight: a short hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Gathering next to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River at the trailhead, the immediate commentary was about the giant potholes and deep dips that folks navigated on the way. Federal Highways funding paid for paving of some of this access road but the Forest Service’s minimal roads budget means that less than 10% of their roads get any type of attention (maintenance) in any given year. Potholes get bigger and the problems also expand.
WildEarth Guardians and many allies, such as WA Trails Association, Mountains to Sound Greenway, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited and more, showed up to hike and celebrate the outdoors but also continue to push solutions. Thanks to Representative Schrier, the Legacy Roads and Trails Act was introduced in Congress again this year. We are all working to ensure that as solutions to the climate crisis and crumbling infrastructure are hammered out in Congress, that Legacy Roads and Trails is part of the solution.
Please do your part and ask your members of Congress to fund Legacy Roads and Trails.