Udall, Bennet Announce $7.4 Million from USDA for Safer Roads, Healthier Ecosystems on Colorado Forest Lands

Recovery Act Funding Will Provide Much-Needed Road Maintenance, Ecosystem Restoration in San Juan National Forest, Pawnee National Grassland

Washington, DC - Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, today announced that Coloradans can expect to benefit from safer roads and healthier, more vibrant ecosystems thanks to $7.4 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding coming to the state for forest road maintenance and associated watershed and ecosystem restoration.

The funding, provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide much-needed maintenance on Bird Tour roads in Pawnee National Grassland ($2.5 million) and on authorized roads in San Juan National Forest ($4.9 million). Funds will also be used to decommission unauthorized roads in San Juan National Forest that can disturb wildlife and damage resources.

Road rehabilitation improves water quality by reducing sediments in nearby streams and helps restore natural resources and habitat for fish in areas affected by deterioration and erosion of road surfaces. Road decommissioning eliminates unneeded and unauthorized roads and restores land to a more natural state. Watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement activities include thinning, removal of competing vegetation, planting native species, and constructing new stream channels and ponds.

"Thousands of Coloradans and others enjoy our national forests and grasslands each year. These open spaces are as critical to the local economy as they are to the overall health of our environment," Senator Udall said. "This funding is going to help us catch up on road maintenance and restoration in Pawnee National Grassland and San Juan National Forest that has been put off for too long. It's an investment that will keep these lands healthy - and that, in turn, will strengthen the surrounding communities."

"National Forest lands belong to all Coloradans and all Americans, and they should be made available for everyone - from the outdoor enthusiast to the occasional visitor - to discover and enjoy," said Bennet. "We're putting these recovery dollars to use improving national forest roads and creating new jobs that will add to the health and sustainability our national forests and ensure current and future generations can enjoy them for years to come."

The Pawnee Bird Tour roads provide recreational visitors the opportunity to view a variety of bird species in their natural environment. The Bird Tour roads have degraded due to loss of aggregate surfacing and erosion problems caused by poor road drainage.

The San Juan National Forest has more than 2,700 miles of authorized system roads and more than 900 miles of unauthorized roads. The authorized road system requires periodic maintenance to improve public safety, forest and watershed health, and to preserve roadway structure. Unauthorized roads are user-created routes or abandoned logging routes that require decommissioning to prevent resource damage and wildlife disturbance. This project would perform critical maintenance, repair road damage, remedy safety hazards, improve public and administrative access, enhance forest and watershed health, reduce the deferred maintenance backlog for system roads, and enable the decommissioning of roads in critical areas.

The funds are part of a $228 million initiative announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for 106 projects on Forest Service land in 31 states.