Breaking Down the 2021 Federal Infrastructure Bill

Big news for public lands: the bipartisan infrastructure bill was recently signed into law. Learn about what’s in the package and how it will provide major investments to support Forest Service roads, wildfire resilience, post-wildfire restoration, recreation opportunities, and more in Washington.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
November 20, 2021
Breaking Down the 2021 Federal Infrastructure Bill

When you hear the word “infrastructure,” you might first think of urban roads, bridges, and other types of transportation frameworks. But the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act - which President Biden signed into law on November 15 - covers much more than that. Congress seized a historic opportunity to prioritize and deliver climate action, while providing a long-overdue boost to many facets of our nation’s aging infrastructure.

This infrastructure package passed the Senate in August and the House in early November, and includes critical funding for a wide range of priorities. For public lands and waters in particular, it funds climate and clean energy solutions, coastal restoration, and forest restoration and resilience priorities. There are many important pieces, but here’s a few of the things we're most excited about, and what these new investments mean for the outdoors here in Washington.

Investing in our National Forests

Topping our list, this package will help improve roads and trails in our National Forests by permanently authorizing and providing $250 million of funding over the next 5 years for the Legacy Roads and Trails program (LRT). With this much-needed funding to help maintain roads and trails on Forest Service lands, land managers will be able to restore habitat for fish and wildlife and enhance recreation opportunities. In addition, the bill emphasizes decommissioning previously closed roads and increased public input around projects.

This funding is especially important for National Forests in our region, because about one quarter of the total Forest Service road infrastructure across the country is found in Washington and Oregon, largely due to a history of intense logging. These important investments in LRT will enable implementation of projects already in the queue in our region, including on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Cascades. We’re thankful for the leadership of Representatives Kim Schrier and Derek Kilmer for ensuring that this priority ended up in the final bill. 

Climate resiliency

Each season, we see more frequent and intense climate impacts, like extreme weather events in our communities and throughout our public lands. The infrastructure package provides billions of dollars in funding to address much-needed wildfire resilience and post-fire restoration, as well as funding for dam safety. These investments help keep public lands safe, healthy, and sustainable for recreation. They also keep local communities that depend on the outdoor recreation economy safe and open for business.

We’re not done

The work doesn’t stop here, though. Congress is poised to make even more significant investments through the budget reconciliation process by passing the Build Back Better Act. Among many other provisions, current versions of this legislation include additional funding for the Legacy Roads and Trails program - which would build on the recent funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill - to do even more for restoration and recreation throughout the region.

As we’ve said before, the Build Back Better Act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass meaningful climate action and larger-scale conservation investments. That’s because the bill will be considered through a process called budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority vote rather than the usual 60 votes. In addition to bold climate action, we’re also advocating for additional investments in climate resiliency and wildfire prevention, repealing oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, funding for equitable outdoor access, and a 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps to put people to work on climate and public lands projects.

Share your Story and Thank Congress

The House just passed the Build Back Better Act, which shifts the focus to the Senate in the coming weeks. We need to keep up the drumbeat of support for investing in public lands and climate solutions. Our Washington state senators are supportive of climate action, but with so much going on, you can help cut through the noise by acting now and sharing your personal story of why further investments in climate and public lands can’t wait. Our easy-action form also lets you send a quick thank you note to the House members who voted for the bill.

Take Action

P.S. There’s a lot at stake for public lands and climate with this opportunity to secure historic investments in the Build Back Better Act. To make sure Congress meets this moment, consider doing a little more by asking friends or family in Arizona and West Virginia to contact their senators about the Build Back Better Act.

Lead image of Canyon Creek Bridge. Photo by Gabe Purpur (IG: @Gabe_Purpur).

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Brian Booth
Brian Booth says:
Nov 22, 2021 03:08 PM

What in specific does the Infrastructure Bill provide that will increase resiliency to wildfires? And what kind of activities does it provide that will contribute to post-fire restoration?

Conor Marshall
Conor Marshall says:
Nov 24, 2021 03:32 PM

For those interested in diving deeper in the wildfire-related portions of the Infrastructure Bill, this new law includes $2.57 billion in funding for post-fire recovery and burned area rehabilitation. In terms of wildfire resilience, the bill includes support for the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior wildfire programs focused on hazardous fuels removal, tribal forest protection agreements, and restoration. Here are a few more specifics:
-$500 million over five years for prescribed burns.
-$500 million for mechanical tree harvesting and clearing and -$500 million for developing fuel breaks and control locations. (This would be done in an ecological manner.)
-New Community Wildfire Defense Grants, funded at $500 million over five years.
-$20 million to establish a program with NOAA that to use satellites to detect where a wildfire starts (DOI and USDA).

Loren Fox
Loren Fox says:
Nov 23, 2021 07:03 PM

Build better act is failure, inflation is out of control and you all want to spend more money than god has ever seen. Maybe mountaineers needs to do more fund raising to fix the roads and what not. I am a middle class tax payer . That is tired of paying for people who don’t pay there share . Let’s get more money we can’t afford to spend . Shame on you mountaineers for promoting this . This will be my last year with this organization.