News for Immediate Release
Nov. 6, 2021
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]
WASHINGTON – A massive legislative package focused on improving U.S. infrastructure and addressing a number of conservation priorities was advanced 228-206 by the House of Representatives late Friday night. The $1.2 trillion, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed by the Senate in August.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which has championed key measures in the bill – such as reclaiming public lands impacted by extractive development, maintenance and repair of Forest Service roads and trails, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat connectivity, and wildfire risk reduction – applauded the House action.
“The road to achieving this conservation victory was neither smooth nor simple,” said Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO. “Yet our House leaders persevered. In the name of our public lands and waters, our fish and wildlife populations, and our shared outdoor traditions, American hunters and anglers have reason to celebrate this moment. And together we thank the House of Representatives for making it possible for us to achieve it.”
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorizes $11.29 billion for an Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to restore land and water degraded by coal mining and includes $4.67 billion in new funding for the plugging, remediation and reclamation of orphaned oil and gas wells. The bill also creates a new Abandoned Hardrock Mine Reclamation Program, authorized for $3 billion, that will provide jobs in rural regions and restore water quality for fish, wildlife and local communities. However, the program has yet to receive funding.
“Hardrock mining and abandoned mines represent the single-largest source of pollution in the United States,” said Tawney, “with an estimated 40 percent of Western watersheds contaminated by mine tailings and runoff. Fish and wildlife, and the habitat on which they depend, stand to gain enormously from the cleanup of abandoned mine sites. We look forward to this program quickly being fully and robustly funded and will work with Congress to make sure that happens.”
A pilot program created by the infrastructure bill focuses on reducing wildlife collisions on highways and roads. Funded at $350 million, it also aims to improve habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife. Infrastructure that facilitates safe wildlife crossings can save the lives of both humans and animals. It is particularly important to sustaining the wildlife migration corridors of big-game species like mule deer, elk and pronghorn.
The Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program receives $250 million in the bill. This important program expands access for sportsmen and women through upgrades and repairs to Forest Service roads and trails while also decommissioning unneeded roads. The program has taken strides toward improving water quality and aquatic habitat by reducing sedimentation and removing fish passage barriers. Addressing these barriers is of critical importance to salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, where recent returns have been at record lows. The National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program will be funded at $1 billion to improve the passage and survival of these and other anadromous fish species.
Following Friday’s vote, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act advances to President Joe Biden, who is expected to quickly sign it into law.
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