Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced Friday that more than $37 million in investments to improve recreation infrastructure located on national forests and grasslands.
The investments are made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The funding, which includes $19 million for recreation sites and $18 million for cabins and historic buildings, aims to improve the nation’s recreation infrastructure.
Investments in recreation sites will fund maintenance, repairs, build restroom facilities, improve and expand individual campsites, install and upgrade powerlines, and make other infrastructure improvements.
Investments in recreation cabins and historic buildings will fund maintenance, repairs, and construction of new cabins.
The agency will invest $14.4 million of the $18 million available for recreation cabins and historic buildings in cabins on the Tongass and Chugach National Forests in Alaska. The agency is planning a collaborative process that engages Alaska Natives, local Alaskan communities, and other partners to determine where and how best to leverage funds to improve cabins and cabin-related infrastructure.
“We are looking for the cabin strategy to strengthen local relationships and economies by engaging partners, using local businesses, promoting local workforce development, and using local wood where feasible,” said Alaska’s Regional Forester Dave Schmid. “Local voices sharing thoughts on cabin locations and designs will help to shape the overall plan moving forward.”
According to a release from the USDA Alaska Region, it is the goal of the Forest Service’s Alaska Region to place cabins where the demand exists. Based on previous public input, several cabin locations were identified, and additional public feedback will help narrow those options to areas that will best meet the needs and desires of cabin users.
The USDA said outdoor recreation on Forest Service lands and sites has become more popular the past two years, with visitation to national forests and grasslands peaking at 168 million visits nationally in 2020.
“Public lands have seen a remarkable surge in visitors over the past two years as people sought outdoor experiences during the pandemic. It is an important reminder that our recreation facilities play a crucial role to so many people,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “The investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help to ensure Forest Service facilities continue to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
They said this increase has created challenges and opportunities as the agency seeks to meet new demands while ensuring the safety of visitors and the health of the environment.
The Forest Service is prioritizing investments that address these challenges and improve recreation sites to accommodate this increased visitation and better protect natural resources near these sites.
The Forest Service is currently finalizing a list of approved projects, which will be available later this calendar year. Once approved, the projects are expected to be implemented within five years.
Upcoming public engagement opportunities will be posted on the Alaska Region Cabin Strategy website.