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The Sawtooth National Forest was allocated over $1 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week to address long-overdue maintenance needs, including full replacement of the Redfish Lake Creek bridge.

The Sawtooth National Forest received $1.1 million last week from the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to help fund five infrastructure improvement projects over the next five years.

Forest Service spokeswoman Julie Thomas said those include bridge replacement and repair, trail restoration and upgrades to aging campsite facilities across the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The Legacy Restoration Fund was established in 2020 as part of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and signed by President Donald Trump last August.

“In Idaho, we are blessed with amazing public lands and this legislation will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them as we have,” Simpson said shortly after the legislation passed.

The $1.1 million received by the Sawtooth National Forest is a small fraction of the $285 million divvied up among national forests and grasslands this spring. The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund—administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture—was specifically formed to repair thousands of miles of trails, deteriorating campground infrastructure and other high-priority, backlogged projects across the country. The fund itself is bankrolled by new oil, gas, coal and alternative energy development on federal land that otherwise would be deposited in the U.S. Treasury General Account, according to the Outdoors Act.

Visitors to national forests contribute around $11 billion to the U.S. economy every year and help sustain over 148,000 jobs, according to the USDA. By addressing long-overdue maintenance needs, the Sawtooth National Forest could improve visitor experience and boost its own revenues, Forest Supervisor Jim DeMaagd said in a statement on March 29.

“As we implement the Great America Outdoors Act across the Forest, our highest priority are those projects that reduce deferred maintenance … and provide the greatest immediate benefit to the public,” he stated.

Starting this year, the Sawtooth National Forest will be working on the following five core projects:

• Redfish Lake Bridge replacement ($440,000): This project will replace an abandoned road bridge that spans Redfish Lake Creek just south of Glacier View Campground with a 12-foot-wide timber trail bridge.

• Warm Springs Bridge repair ($410,000): The steel bridge on Warm Springs Road near Penny Lake will be replaced. The bridge was temporarily installed as a replacement to the original timber bridge that burned down during the Beaver Creek Fire in 2013.

• Bald Mountain Lookout maintenance ($106,000): The lookout building on top of Baldy will undergo various electrical upgrades and repairs to its concrete roof deck. The structure—which houses Forest Service radio equipment—will also see a new deck roof, new wood shingles on the lookout portion of the building and fresh paint.

• Recreational site maintenance ($90,000): The project will involve hiring a four-person maintenance crew “to replace, repair and remove damaged infrastructure, install vehicle barriers, upgrade facilities for persons with disabilities, and treat weeds” in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, according to Thomas. Sites to be improved include Billy’s Bridge Mountain Goat Viewing Site north of Ketchum; Stanley Lake Overlook; the Cherry Creek Picnic Area just south of Galena Lodge; the Tin Cup hiker and equestrian trailheads along Pettit Lake; the Four Aces River Access Site along the Salmon River; and eight other parking areas, trailheads and day-use sites. Several campground restrooms in the SNRA will also be painted and upgraded with new toilets.

• Little Wood trails maintenance ($54,000): Members of the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Program will upgrade 40 miles of nonmotorized trails within the Little Wood River area, concentrating on restoring the Iron Mine Trail, Little Wood River Trail and Federal Gulch Trail.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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