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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Projects in Washington, North Idaho get a boost from Great American Outdoors Act

Washington reaped its fair share of benefits from the 2020 Great American Outdoors Act.

The legislation created the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, which is designed to pay for conservation work and maintenance projects on public lands nationwide through 2025.

That money has funded projects managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Last year, federal officials proposed putting up to $2.8 billion in the fund for this year.

Since the fund’s creation in 2021, the money has helped fix roads and trails, install bathrooms and upgrade recreation sites.

In Washington, most of the projects have been on Forest Service land. According to the Washington Trails Association, the money helped improve 16.7 miles of road and 289 miles of trail in the state.

About 23 miles of those trails were on the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington. The work spruced up routes along the International Selkirk Loop. A dozen recreation sites along that loop also saw some work thanks to the fund.

In all, some 70 recreation sites across Washington were upgraded, according to WTA. Eighteen bridges got repairs, and 16 bathrooms were installed.

WTA also noted that the act funded its first Lost Trails Found crew – a professional crew that works on backcountry trails that WTA says are “at risk of disappearing completely.”

The first crew began work in 2021, and now WTA has multiple Lost Trails Found crews. Last year, members logged hitches all over the state, including some time clearing logs in the Pasayten Wilderness and building a staircase at Prett Lake in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Elsewhere in Washington, the fund has earmarked money for five projects on lands managed by the Department of the Interior. A fact sheet from the National Park Service says its sites in the state were approved for about $80 million in projects from fiscal years 2021 to 2024.

Olympic and Mount Rainier national parks are getting big chunks of that money, including a $45 million effort to rehabilitate Stevens Canyon Road at Mount Rainier – the only east-to-west route in that park.

The BLM is using about $1 million from the fund to upgrade historic buildings at the Folsom Farm site near Sprague, according to Interior’s map of Legacy Restoration Fund projects.

In North Idaho, the money will pay for upgrades to the Route of the Hiawatha, a popular bicycling destination that follows an old railroad grade from the Montana border to Wallace, Idaho. A number of deferred maintenance projects are also planned for Forest Service properties.