The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has outlined project priorities under the Great American Outdoors Act. A prioritized list of deferred maintenance projects has been delivered to Congress. The list outlines areas of need for funding in fiscal year 2021. The bill was enacted to help federal officials restore and maintain the necessary infrastructure on public lands.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a press release. “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.”
Altogether, nearly 560 shovel-ready projects have been highlighted by USDA as priorities. A total of 95 of the projects are located in California. The projects will assist federal land managers to provide critical repairs and restorations to facilities and infrastructure if they are fully funded. The projects were all carefully analyzed by Forrest Service officials. Project proposals were evaluated based on a set of criteria which included the reduction of overall deferred maintenance and promoting and improving visitor experience and access.
There is a growing backlog of deferred maintenance on national forests and grasslands which will require more than $5 billion to fully address. The total includes $3.7 billion worth of repairs to roads and bridges as well as $1.5 billion for facility repair. The Great American Outdoors Act was passed by Congress in July and signed into law in August. Implementation of the bill will be an important step in addressing the multitude of issues.