Report Gives Thumbs-Up to Pacific NW Legacy Roads Program

SEATTLE - A new federal report says the U.S. Forest Service's Legacy Roads Program is getting the job done in the Pacific Northwest when it comes to forest restoration and protecting water resources, and now there is a call to expand the program to create more employment.

Federal statistics show up to 24 jobs are created for every $1 million spent on these projects. That's a big reason Congressman Norm Dicks wants to see the program expanded, along the lines of the old Civilian Conservation Corps.

"This thing keeps people at work; in fact, I think we should really accelerate it because the people in the rural areas need jobs. These are the kind of things we need to do to help people, rather than just unemployment comp."

Federal funding for national forests in Oregon and Washington increased from $9.5 million in 2009 to $20 million in 2010.

The Forest Service report also credits the Legacy Roads and Trails program with expanding collaboration and partnerships.

Gov. Christine Gregoire's chief of staff, Jay Manning, says collaboration with a variety of interests, including Native American tribes, has been crucial to the program's success.

"The tribes, they live there, they know that these problems in the upper watershed have had a serious impact on the salmon runs; and part of this is about salmon restoration and that is part of the culture and part of the economy for these tribes."

According to Manning, close collaboration with groups whose interests don't always coincide will be even more critical in the next few years, given the nation's tight budget.

The Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative honored Rep. Dicks on Friday with a Clean Water Hero Award. Manning was also honored for his work as the former director of the Washington Department of Ecology.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA