Merkley, Wyden Announce $40 Million in Federal Funding to Help Maintain Healthy Pacific Northwest Forests and Support Local Recreation Economies

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service will invest up to $40 million in projects that will maintain healthy national forests in the Pacific Northwest Region. The funding will also support projects to improve transportation and recreation infrastructure in the forests, which will boost accessibility and help support local economies.

The funding announced today is part of a $285 million investment in America’s National Forests through the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which was created last year by the Great American Outdoors Act—legislation introduced and championed by Merkley and Wyden.

“Like so many Oregonians, many of my family’s best memories have been made exploring Oregon’s shores, forests, and deserts,” said Merkley, who serves as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Forest Service and the Great American Outdoors Act. “That’s why I’m fully committed to doing everything I can to ensure that we are good stewards of our natural treasures, and that future generations of fishermen, hikers, hunters, campers, and other outdoor recreationists can make their own memories on our public lands. These investments in the health of our lands and waters and the local communities that rely on them will help make that happen.”

“These investments in Oregon’s natural treasures are especially timely for rural communities reeling from the economic fallout of the public health crisis, and for all Oregonians counting on recreation to take a break in the outdoors, “ Wyden said. “These resources are exactly why I worked last year to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which is proving itself a blueprint for jobs and preservation of our state’s world-renowned forests, rivers and streams.”

Specific projects in Oregon and Washington that will be supported by this funding include:

  • Maintenance and repairs to dozens of pedestrian bridge crossings and more than 1,500 miles of forest trails;
  • Capital improvements to improve access and accessibility at visitor centers, historic buildings, and other recreation facilities;
  • Projects to improve fish passage and habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, as well as other aquatic species;
  • Upgrades or replacements of outdated systems for water and waste management; and
  • Enhancements to high-priority visitor and recreation corridors, safety improvements to visitor parking areas, and repairs or maintenance to hundreds of miles of forest roads necessary to support access for recreation, timber, and wildland fire response.

“We’re excited to confirm the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava River Cave access improvements will be among the first projects funded by the new National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund established by the Great American Outdoors Act. This fund represents an important investment in our communities and in the growing recreation economy. Lava Lands Visitor Center is the interpretive hub for the Newberry National Volcanic Monument,” said Holly Jewkes, the Deschutes National Forest Supervisor.

“Built in 1937, Timberline Lodge is one of Oregon’s most popular tourist destinations, and requires a good bit of upkeep to host over 2 million visitors per year. We value our partnership with Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden, and the U.S. Forest Service, and are appreciative of this dedicated funding to address deferred maintenance projects,” said Jon Tullis, Director of Public Affairs, Timberline Lodge.

“Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge is so thankful to Congress for passing the Great American Outdoors Act and the funding it provides for the restoration of historic Santiam Pass Ski Lodge. The lodge was built in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and for 46 years the rustic structure was a favorite destination for people throughout Oregon. Many have longed and hoped the historic and beloved place could be brought back into service to the public. This Act is a tremendous help in making that happen. Our thanks to congress is not only because the funding helps the lodge restoration, but also because of the help it gives to so many other places we love,” said Dwight Sheets, President, Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge.

“The Great American Outdoors Act gives us the welcome opportunity to invest in infrastructure repairs at recreation destinations that are important to the local tourism economy. These projects will help ensure visitors can enjoy safe and comfortable visits to national forest sites on the Oregon Coast,” said Robert Sanchez, Forest Supervisor at the US Forest Service, Siuslaw National Forest.

“The Forest Service is pleased to receive GAOA funding to provide improved recreation access for the public. In 2021, this will be accomplished by providing much-needed improvements to the Bear Camp Road, and working cooperatively with our partners to address trail maintenance needs on several high priority trails,” said Brian White, Public Services Staff Officer, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

“Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden have once again shown us what real conservation leadership looks like. To save Oregon’s famous salmon and steelhead fisheries for future generations we must both better protect habitat and water quality and provide sufficient resources for the public to appreciate them. The funding for these projects represents a vital investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure on our public lands that will benefit all Oregonians. On behalf of Oregon’s 622,861 licensed anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts I thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for their commitment to protecting Oregon’s sporting heritage and his leadership in passing and funding the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Dean Finnerty, NW Director, Angler Conservation Project at Trout Unlimited.

“Senators Merkley and Wyden fought for passage of the Great America Outdoors Act which is now leading to long overdue investments to improve river recreation access and fish and wildlife habitat across Oregon. Because of their leadership we are seeing tangible results on the ground with projects that support the growing recreation-based economy in the upper Willamette, the Rogue and Snake river watersheds,” said David Moryc, Senior Director, Wild and Scenic Rivers and Public Lands Policy at American Rivers.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most impactful piece of American conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in decades. It’s a testament to the fact that the outdoors affects every American and every Oregonian and we applaud Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for working tirelessly with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help pass this iconic legislation. The Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition is buoyed that priority projects funded this year include over 1500 miles of deferred trail maintenance and much needed repairs on the iconic North Umpqua Trail. This work will improve access to recreation on public lands, support small businesses, and enhance the health of Oregonians for generations to come,” said Matthew Weintraub, Board Secretary, Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition.