Last week, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry held a hearing on “The National Forest System: Restoring our Forest Infrastructure.” Led by Subcommittee Chairwoman Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) and Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa (R-California), the hearing focused on the $5.2 billion backlog of maintenance projects within the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Ranking Member LaMalfa further pointed out 75 percent of the backlog is maintenance of the USFS road system of which federal forests in California share $400 million.
In 2018, Congress passed legislation to end the budgetary practice known as “fire borrowing” that is broadly considered responsible for the erosion of the maintenance program at the USFS. The “fire borrowing” fix will take effect in Fiscal 2020, which supporters hope will free up significant funds for the USFS to address the decaying infrastructure on federal forest lands. Ranking Member LaMalfa also acknowledged the USFS’s recent proposed rulemakings that would expedite the environmental review process for certain projects related to forest management. Lenise Lago, Associate Chief at USFS, provided the subcommittee with an assessment of the USFS of the $5.2 billion maintenance backlog at her agency and discussed undertakings at the USFS to address decaying infrastructure on federal forest land.