Great American Outdoors Act provides $27.4 million for recreation and access improvements on WA and OR National Forests

(PORTLAND, OR)- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region is investing $27.4 million in 23 individual Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) projects across National Forests in Washington and Oregon.

These investments are made possible by the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF) established by the Great American Outdoors Act, according to a news release from the Forest Service.

The funding provided through the Great American Outdoors Act greatly improved the Forest Service’s ability to address deferred maintenance needs at recreation facilities across the Northwest, said Jacque Buchanan, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester.

“We’ve made incredible progress in updating recreation sites, trails, and access with the help of these funds. Each investment reduces the amount of costly maintenance needed to protect public safety and natural resources, and improves the experience for visitors,” she said.

Including the authorized and funded deferred maintenance projects for Fiscal Year 2024, the Pacific Northwest Region now has 76 LRF projects, with 58 in various stages of development and 18 completed projects.

Since 2021, the Forest Service has completed more than 267 deferred maintenance projects across 41 states and Puerto Rico with more than 880 additional projects currently funded and in various stages of completion.

In Washington and Oregon, previous LRF investments have included important repairs to historic buildings, including repairs at the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood National Forest, Lava River Cave entrance improvements for safety and accessibility and parking area repairs at Lava Lands Visitor Center on the Deschutes National Forest, and a parking lot expansion project at the Denny Creek and Franklin Falls trailheads on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Numerous restroom facilities across the region have been upgraded, and more than 40 bridges are being repaired or replaced.

New projects for fiscal year 2024 include critical safety improvements at the Johnston Ridge Observatory on the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Selkirk Loop Trail restoration and recreation amenity improvements in northeast Washington, and accessibility, utility and security upgrades to historic Multnomah Falls Lodge at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Across the region, funding has also been approved to improve more than 1500 miles of trails, and update campgrounds, trailheads, and day-use areas.

“Our goal is to enable experiences for everyone, from the first-time visitor to the experienced outdoorsperson. Some of this work will modernize facilities to improve accessibility for all. Other projects will improve visitor safety, better protect natural resources, and help preserve and restore historic buildings,” said Sally Butts, director for Recreation, Lands, and Minerals for the Pacific Northwest Region.

While investments in roads, bridges and culverts aren’t always noticed, they’re important to providing visitor experiences and critical to protecting the surrounding natural resources, said Christy Darden, Director of Engineering for the Pacific Northwest Region.

“Nature is hard on our infrastructure and when maintenance or repairs are delayed, the damage escalates. In the worst-case scenario, nearby water sources and habitat are damaged. These investments provide a much-needed boost that’s helping us address deferred maintenance and keep sites and roads open, accessible, and safe,” she said.

Government agencies, Tribes, and other individuals and community organizations are routinely involved in project development and planning, or in the public participation process for large projects. Some of these organizations are also able to provide volunteers, technical expertise, or coordinate work on projects under agreements with the Forest Service.

Much of the funding is used to fund such agreements, or to fund contracts with industry partners with the skills and experience to perform the necessary work.

To date, GAOA has brought more than $48.8 million in contracts to Oregon, mostly to small businesses. In Washington, nearly $28.2 million in LRF projects has been awarded, almost all to small businesses.

The Great American Outdoors Act addresses the growing $8.6 billion backlog of deferred maintenance on national forest and grasslands. The Forest Service currently administers more than 370,000 miles of roads, 13,900 trail and road bridges, 160,000 miles of trails, 1,500 dams and reservoirs, 1,500 communications sites, and 30,000 recreation sites across the United States and Puerto Rico.

For more information about Forest Service implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/gaoa.