2022 Federal Budget Trail Investments Good News — Here’s Why We’re Working for More
Last week, Congress finalized a federal budget for the 2022 fiscal year. Amid the trillions of dollars within Congress’s new budget — what matters for trails? In some good news, the budget increases investments in the Forest Service, but the numbers fall short of what's needed.
Last week, Congress finalized a federal budget for the 2022 fiscal year. Amid the trillions of dollars within Congress’s new budget — what matters for trails?
More money for the Forest Service, but is it enough?
The Forest Service needs more people. Staffing and capacity issues are hampering the agency's ability to help keep hikers safe and keep public lands open and in good shape across the country. While this year’s budget does increase investments in the Forest Service (good news!) the numbers fall short of what the agency requested in many places.
Some of the highlights for the Forest Service:
- The National Forest System (the budget umbrella under which many programs and expenses for Forest Service lands are managed) will receive roughly 80 million or a 4% increase in funding from last year. That falls short of what the Forest Service requested by almost 27%.
- Salaries and expenses also increased by about 50 million from last year’s budget, for a total of 1.459 billion. That’s good news for getting more people on the ground, but it is still 60 million less than they said they need this year.
- In more good news, roads investments are up by 2.54%, trails investments are up by 6.08%, and overall the Capital Improvements and Maintenance account (which funds new projects or maintenance) received a 13.31% increase from last year. That all amounts to a total of 159 million.
Call for bold investments in the Forest Service
These increases are a great step in the right direction. After decades of underfunding, these are important victories for trails and public lands. The core of so many needs for our public lands starts with long-term sustainable investments in the programming and people that do the work. Our work isn’t over — plans to implement these dollars and discussions around funding levels for next year are already underway!
This is where we need your help. The best way to ensure that these investments continue to grow is to encourage your representatives to make bold investments in the Forest Service going forward. One way to do that is by growing Forest Service capacity. Help us do so by taking action now.
Great American Outdoors Act Funding benefits Washington’s trails
Part of the role of the budget is not just to provide money, but to allocate money that has been committed to programs that Congress has approved in the past. One of those priority programs is the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).
We have talked about the impacts of GAOA funding in the past and how it has helped WTA’s Lost Trails Found crew make big gains for trails in places like the Entiat. This year, GAOA dollars will again be coming into Washington at high rates.
Washington will receive $6.5 million in allocations for deferred maintenance projects across all of its National Forests. On top of that, the Pacific Northwest Region as a whole will receive an additional $8.77 million for its projects. That totals up to $15 million that might be headed to trails near you.
The Great American Outdoors Act has three more years of funding before it runs out. The program has already made such an impact, which is why we are working to make GAOA continue into the future.
If you want to help us build on our wins and work to make GAOA funding permanent, sign up for our Trail Action Network today for all updates on WTA’s advocacy efforts.