NBC Montana: USDA Forest Service invests $28.8M for deferred maintenance projects

by NBC Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. — The USDA Forest Service Northern Region announced the Great American Outdoors Act is investing $28.8 million for 61 projects spread across north Idaho, North Dakota and Montana.

The investment comes from the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.

According to Corrie Kegel, a program coordinator for the R1 GAOA, funds would go toward road maintenance and updates to campgrounds, trails and infrastructure such as picnic tables, signs and water systems within the Northern Region.

Two Montana projects receiving funding include:

  • Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Trail
  • Route of the Hiawatha

Sen. Jon Tester’s office provided the following background information on the Great American Outdoors Act: “Dating all the way back to 2009, Senator Tester has been the Senate’s leading advocate for fully funding the Land Water Conservation Fund and for passing his Great American Outdoors Act. After facing consistent partisan obstruction, he was finally able to get the bill across the finish line in 2020 – directly resulting in this funding. It’s not an overstatement to say that without Tester’s effort, this funding would not be heading to Montana.”

The Custer Gallatin National Forest released the following information:

Today, the USDA Forest Service Northern Region (R1) announced an investment of $28.8 million from the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to support 61 projects across north Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota in Fiscal Year 2023. These investments are made possible from the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF) established by the Great American Outdoors Act.

Corrie Kegel, R1 GAOA Program Coordinator, said “The Great American Outdoors Act allows the Forest Service and our many partners to repair, update, and modernize roads, campgrounds, trails, and other infrastructure across the Northern Region. At many of our recreation sites, this will look like repaired or new picnic tables, fire rings, signs, water systems, and vault toilets meeting accessibility requirements. For those who hike on trails or drive Forest Service roads, they will experience trail and road systems in better condition than they’ve been in years before this historic funding. We are proud of the work we have accomplished and are excited for the upcoming field season to continue to improve these special places appreciated and used by our public landowners.”

Since the creation of the GAOA, R1 has worked on 156 deferred maintenance projects; many of which are complex, multi-year projects. In total, R1 has invested approximately $81 million in the first three years of GAOA, with more projects planned in the final two years of the program.

To learn more about R1 GAOA activities, visit the R1 GAOA Webpage where you will find Fiscal Year 2021 through Fiscal Year 2023 projects and feature stories; two feature story excerpts below:

  • Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Trail Work: During the summer of 2022, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, Lincoln Ranger District worked with a Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation trail crew to complete a trail puncheon that had washed out. They also worked with the Montana Conservation Corps on an upper section of trail in the Scapegoat Wilderness that needed retread, brushing, and drainage work. View Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Trail Work story online.
  • Route of the Hiawatha: During the summer and fall of 2022, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests worked with partners and local contractors on resurfacing improvements on the Route of the Hiawatha. In FY23, the Route of the Hiawatha will see additional work funded on the tunnels and trestles, made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act. View Route of the Hiawatha story online.

For more information about the Forest Service implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, visit the Forest Service GAOA Webpage.

USDA Forest Service invests $28.8M for deferred maintenance projects | KECI (nbcmontana.com)