The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service recently announced more than $37 million in investments to improve vital recreation infrastructure located on national forests and grasslands, according to a release. These investments are made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which devotes unprecedented resources to rural infrastructure improvements, including repairs on national forest lands.
The funding, which includes $19 million for recreation sites and $18 million for cabins and historic buildings, aims to improve the nation’s recreation infrastructure, which is critical to the health, wellness and prosperity of the American people.
“Public lands have seen a remarkable surge in visitors over the past two years as people sought outdoor experiences during the pandemic. It is an important reminder that our recreation facilities play a crucial role to so many people,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “The investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help to ensure 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 visitation to national forests and grasslands peaking at 168 million visits nationally 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 increased visitation and better protect 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, the projects are expected to be implemented within five years.
The agency is also closely considering input from tribes. As part of the project selection process, the agency is prioritizing investments that consider the needs of tribal communities recognizing the positive social and economic impacts of improved recreation 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. The funding will help to ensure recreation sites and cabins are resilient to changing conditions and account for risks stemming from flooding and wildfires.
Investments in recreation sites will fund maintenance, repairs, build restroom facilities, improve and expand individual campsites, install and upgrade powerlines and make other infrastructure improvements.
Investments in recreation cabins and historic buildings will fund maintenance, repairs and construction of new cabins. The agency will invest $14.4 million of the $18 million available for recreation cabins and historic buildings in cabins on the Tongass and Chugach National Forests in Alaska. These complement other investments USDA is making as part of its Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy to support diverse local economies.
Forest Service-managed cabins are key to the recreation infrastructure in Alaska. Cabins located in remote locations host thousands of recreators each year and offer protection from demanding conditions. The agency is planning a collaborative process that engages Alaska Natives, local Alaskan communities and other partners to determine where and how best to leverage funds to improve cabins and cabin-related infrastructure.
To learn more about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is investing in critical landscape-scale projects on and around national forests and grasslands, visit the Forest Service website.