On November 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it has delivered to Congress its priority list of deferred maintenance projects for Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) funding in fiscal year 2021. The GAOA will protect and enhance the economies of numerous gateway communities that surround our public lands by restoring and maintaining critical access and infrastructure. The bill was a part of a strong push by President Trump to prioritize the conservation and stewardship of our public lands. Congress passed the bill in July and the President signed it into law in August.
“Each year our nation’s forest network connects approximately 300 million Americans to federally managed public lands. The Great American Outdoors Act gives us an historic opportunity to make significant improvements to our visitor facilities, roads, bridges, trailheads, campgrounds, and other recreational sites and to secure and improve access to public lands for generations to come,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “USDA is hitting the ground running to implement the Great American Outdoors Act. We are working with states, local communities, and partners to enhance the quality of the visitor experience in a way that boosts local economies, creates employment opportunities, and reduces our maintenance backlog.”
The project list breakdown, now available on the agency’s website, will help the Forest Service reduce its $5.2 billion deferred maintenance backlog and improve access and visitor experience by repairing and restoring roads, trails, bridges, recreation sites, and other facilities on national forests and grasslands. Working with state and local governments and other partners in a Shared Stewardship framework, these projects will benefit from millions in partner contributions that will further bolster the funding provided under GAOA.
After the GAOA was signed into law in August, the Forest Service spent several weeks reviewing project proposals from national forests and grasslands nationwide. The agency analyzed project proposals based on seven criteria:
- Reduce deferred maintenance
- Promote management of America’s forests
- Improve visitor experience
- Contribute to rural economic development
- Improve visitor access
- Ensure health and safety
- Leverage partner contributions and resources
After a careful analysis of all project proposals, the Forest Service worked with local communities and stakeholders to identify over 550 shovel-ready projects that, if fully funded, will give federal land managers resources to take aggressive steps in repairing and restoring facilities and infrastructure the American people depend on when visiting their national forests and grasslands.
Read more from Secretary Perdue on the Great American Outdoors Act in his op-ed “Opening and Accessing America’s Great Outdoors,” featured on the on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website.