American Wildlands • Alaska Transportation Priorities Project • Biodiversity Conservation Alliance • Center for Native Ecosystems • Citizens for a Better Flathead • Colorado Environmental Coalition • Colorado Mountain Club • Colorado Plateau Institute • Environment Colorado • Forest Guardians • Friends of the Clearwater • Grand Canyon Wildlands Council • Greater Yellowstone Coalition • Idaho Conservation League • Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance • Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation • Montana Smart Growth Coalition • Mountain Lion Foundation • New Mexico Wilderness Alliance • Predator Conservation Alliance • Rewilding Institute • San Juan Citizens Alliance • San Juan Corridors Coalition • San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council • Sky Islands Alliance • South Coast Wildlands Project • Southeast Alaska Conservation Council • Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project • Swan View Coalition • The Lands Council • The Wilderness Society • Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition • Upper Arkansas and South Platte Project • Wildlands CPR • Wildlands Project • Wild Utah Project • Wyoming Outdoor Council • Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
June 1, 2005
Dear Transportation Bill Conference Members:
We, the undersigned, represent a diversity of United States conservation groups collectively representing tens of thousands of members. The reauthorization of TEA-21 is an outstanding opportunity to improve mobility and save lives, while protecting natural areas and wildlife. The transportation infrastructure and associated traffic are taking a heavy toll on our fish and wildlife populations, which are a part of our heritage and, for many states, a critical component of their economy. We applaud the Senate and House for including wildlife conservation measures in each bill. And we strongly encourage the full Conference Committee to embrace these sections and incorporate them into the final bill. This direction can greatly reduce conflicts between wildlife and transportation systems, and ensure driver safety.
Public lands, including national parks, wilderness areas, forests, wildlife refuges, and monuments, provide recreation for millions of visitors every year, habitat for our nation's wildlife and fish populations, and valuable natural resources for our region’s economy. These lands also have an extensive network of over 300,000 miles of roads, primarily unpaved, that provide access to public lands and open space. These roads cause five distinct impacts to wildlife: 1) direct mortality; 2) habitat loss; 3) habitat fragmentation; 4) wildlife displacement; and 5) increased human presence. Animal-vehicle collisions also claim the lives of hundreds of motorists each year.
The following provisions could greatly reduce the effects roads have upon our wildlife populations and we strongly encourage you to support them:
θ H.R. 3, Section 1121 (c), Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Study.
θ S. 732, Chapter 1, Subtitle E, Environmental Planning and Review (All Sections).
θ S. 732, Section 1401, 148(a)(2)(B)(xvi), Inclusions which make the "addition or retrofitting of structures or other measures to eliminate or reduce accidents involving vehicles and wildlife" eligible for funding under the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
θ S. 732, Section 1502, Consultation Between Transportation Agencies and Resource Agencies in Transportation Planning which calls for long-range transportation plans to consider important wildlife movement areas and potential locations for crossing structures to aid wildlife in moving across roads.
θ S. 732, Section 1601, Environmental Restoration and Pollution Abatement; Control of Invasive Plant Species and Establishment of Native Species.
θ S. 732, Section 1817, Improvement of fish passage under forest roads.
The groups represented here are concerned that provisions in S. 732 and HR. 3 regarding the Public Lands Highways Program and the specific allocation for Forest Highways will have profound negative impacts on federal lands, wildlife, and fish populations. We urgently and respectfully request that you reduce funding for the following sections concerning the Federal Lands Highways Program:
θ S. 732, Sec. 1101, 9 (E), Public Lands Highways.
θ S. 732, Sec. 1101, 9 (B), Recreational Roads.
θ H.R. 3, Sec. 1101, 9 (C), Public Lands Highway.
Public Lands Highways and Recreational Roads
S. 732 has earmarked over $281 million/year through 2009 for Public Lands Highways. Section 1806, Federal Lands Highways Program allocates two-thirds of this money to Forest Highways. This program has serious detrimental impacts on wildlife and natural resources because it is funding driven, not need driven; upgrades forest backcountry roads to FHWA/AASHTO standards, even though they were not designed to move people quickly and efficiently; converts administrative roads to public roads, prohibiting administrative road closures; increases long-term road maintenance expenses and shifts the maintenance responsibility to the county or state that assumes management of the road; and leads to increased wildlife/habitat impacts because of increased speeds and traffic (e.g. wildlife-vehicle collisions, wildlife mortality, habitat fragmentation, traffic and overbuilt recreational facilities, air pollution, polluted runoff into streams and rivers).
Examples of Forest and Public Lands Highways Abuse:
• Thompson River Road, Thompson River Valley, western Montana. A proposal to pave this forest road is opposed by locals and fish and wildlife agencies, because it would have profound impacts on threatened species such as grizzly bear and bull trout.
• Cottonwood Pass, San Isabel and Gunnison National Forest between Buena Vista and Taylor Park, Colorado. The effects of paving Cottonwood Pass range from increased wildlife-vehicle collisions, increased conflict between recreationists and the cattle industry, and detrimental economic results to the city of Gunnison. Locals and conservation groups oppose this proposal.
S. 732 has earmarked approximately $47 million/year through 2009 for Recreational Roads. This program would upgrade some 60,000 miles of forest roads for higher speeds and faster access; exempt such road upgrades from NEPA; convert administrative roads to public roads; expose wildlife to increased traffic and speed of travel; and increase recreational infrastructure development and associated maintenance expenses (e.g. fewer primitive facilities, more developed campsites with electric hookups, showers, etc.).
In a time of fiscal restraint, spending $281 million/year to pave backcountry forest roads as well as spending an additional $47 million/year to upgrade other forest roads significantly reduces funds available for more practical and necessary programs, such as maintaining existing roads.
In addition, we urge Congress not to adopt Sec. 1302, Transfer of Highway and Transit Funds, S. 732.
A new provision in Section 1302 of the S. 732 would allow states to transfer Federal Highway Trust Funds from their Chapter 1 programs as apportioned by Congress to any federal agency as long as the agency and the state Department of Transportation agree that the federal agency will undertake the project in question. Instead of paying for nationally significant projects that are important for commerce, mobility and national defense, gas tax dollars could be funneled to irrelevant projects like logging roads on unroaded islands in the Tongass National Forest. The provision also undermines the structure of the Transportation Bill as dictated by Congress and circumvents requirements to involve the public in long-range statewide transportation planning.
Finally, we urge Congress to maintain Section 4(f)
Places that significantly increase our quality of life and appreciation for the past such as parks, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, and historic sites must not be immediately sacrificed to road construction. Furthermore, addressing issues which could potentially conflict with road construction early in the planning process saves both time and money. For these reasons we urge Congress to maintain the original character and intent of Section 4(f) in the reauthorization of the Transportation Bill.
We sincerely appreciate your consideration of our concerns and comments and hope to see our recommendations incorporated into the final version of TEA-21. We are counting on you to represent the needs of our states and constituents now and into the future. Please contact any of the co-signers below with your questions or comments.
Four Corners States Region
The Wilderness Society
Sky Island Alliance
San Juan Citizens Alliance
Center for Native Ecosystems
South Coast Wildlands Project
Biodiversity Conservation Alliance
Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project
Alaska Transportation Priorities Project
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
Swan View Coalition
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
The Lands Council
Colorado Mountain Club
Colorado Environmental Coalition
Citizens For A Better Flathead
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Montana Smart Growth Coalition
Wyoming Outdoor Council
Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation
Dr. Franz Camenzind
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
Wilderness and Land Planning
Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
Katrina A. Hummell
Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition
Sara Coulter and Shirley Jentsch
San Juan Corridors Coalition
Ridgeway and Montrose, CO
SCoulter@towson.edu and firstname.lastname@example.org
James C. Catlin
Wild Utah Project
Salt Lake City, UT
Santa Fe, NM
Colorado Plateau Institute
Salt Lake City, UT
Jean C. Smith
Wild Connections Project Coordinator
Upper Arkansas and South Platte Project
Predator Conservation Alliance
Mountain Lion Foundation
Idaho Conservation League
Forest Watch Director
Friends of the Clearwater
c.c. Governor Brian Schweitzer, Montana
Governor Bill Owens, Colorado
Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico
Governor Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor Christine Gregoire, Washington
Governor Janet Napolitano, Arizona
Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho
Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., Utah
Governor Frank Murkowski, Alaska
Chief Dale Bosworth, USDA Forest Service
Directors, Divisions of Wildlife (MT, CO, NM, WY, CA, WA, AZ, ID, UT, AK)
Directors, Departments of Transportation (MT, CO, NM, WY, CA, WA, AZ, ID, UT, AK)