Officials tout spending impacts on local forests

Joshua Murdock

Top officials from the U.S. departments of Agriculture and the Interior visited Montana this week to tout billions of dollars in infrastructure spending for public lands authorized by Congress in recent years. 

Homer Wilkes, the USDA undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, visited Lolo National Forest’s Pattee Canyon Recreation Area on Friday afternoon to discuss the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill signed in 2020 by then President Donald Trump that has brought $295,000 in funding to the recreation area through 2021 and 2022. Overall, the law allocates $1.9 billion annually for five years to fund deferred maintenance on federal public lands. After Trump signed the bill, his administration reduced the scope of the law’s project list. President Joe Biden’s administration restored the list to its original length.

In Pattee Canyon, the funding allocated for the 3,200-acre site southeast of Missoula will go toward replacing signs, upgrading and maintaining roads and parking lots, and constructing a new pavilion at the Pattee Canyon Picnic Area. Work began last fall. Many improvements were necessitated because of the increased popularity of the area. 

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