Transportation

Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT | James “Newt” Perdue , USFWS
Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT | James “Newt” Perdue , USFWS

Federal Surface Transportation Bill (MAP-21)

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) is a two-year surface transportation bill passed in 2012 that authorized transportation improvements funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among other agencies, through September 2014. The Service Transportation Program supports improved public access to and within Fish and Wildlife Service lands. A robust, safe, accessible, multimodal transportation system is a fundamental component of achieving the Service’s mission. MAP- 21 established three new programs that are relevant to Service lands, including the National Wildlife Refuge System:

  • Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP): for general improvements of transportation facilities inside the boundaries U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands.
  • Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP): to improve access to Federal lands on infrastructure owned by states and local governments. Eighty percent of these funds goes to western states. Federal agencies are not eligible to receive these funds.
  • Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP): gives states the discretion to provide up to 50 percent of the funds allocated to them to urban areas. Federal agencies are also eligible to receive these funds through statewide competitive processes.

Transportation Facilities are Vital for Refuge Success

National wildlife refuges are economic engines returning nearly 5 dollars for every one dollar appropriated to run them. They generate $2.4 billion in economic output, and a large portion of that comes from visitation. Without suitable access to a refuge, visitation would decrease significantly, as would the revenue generated by refuges in local communities. MAP-21 provides the following to refuges:

  • Roads and Parking Lots: Roads provide the most widely used forms of travel to and within Service lands. There are over 5,400 miles of public use roads and over 5,000 parking lots within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As of 2012, 60 percent of Service roads were rated in good or better condition. This is a 35 percent improvement from 2002.
  • Bridges: The 300-plus public bridges managed by the Service are an integral part of the public road and trail system that provides access to refuge facilities, auto tour routes, and wildlife observation facilities. In 2002, 45 percent of public access bridges were rated as being in good or better condition; today, thanks to MAP-21, that number has risen to more than 60 percent.
  • Transit and Trails: Transit and trails ensure that lands open to public visitation have adequate access, mobility, and connectivity for all potential users. With over 2,100 miles of land trails and boardwalks, and an estimated 1,000 miles of water trails, refuges provide important recreational opportunities for visitors.
  • Environmental Improvements: By providing access to refuges and hatcheries, the Service Transportation Program directly supports the agency’s mission to protect fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The Service has been increasingly working to find creative ways to lessen transportation related effects on wildlife with underpasses and other mitigation features.
  • Planning: The Service’s Transportation Program is committed to helping decisions makers systematically incorporate the most relevant data, information and understanding. The following responsibilities are areas of success within the planning portion of the program: program cohesion, performance management, project selection, guidance, data collection and information dissemination, and meeting federal requirements.

Funding:

Currently, MAP-21 funds $30 million annually to the Service’s Transportation Program. But to realize the program’s goals and objectives and address a backlog of projects, it needs to be funded at $100 million per year.

If the Service Transportation Program is not reauthorized in MAP-21, the funds for critical transportation project will come out of the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget. Subsequently, the already tight budget would become even more constrained, resulting in impacts felt throughout the refuge system.

Planning for the Future

Goals and Objectives of the Transportation Program:

  • Environment: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance wildlife and aquatic organism passage; • Safety: Improve visitor/employee safety and improve entrance features;
  • Asset Management: Complete a nationwide pavement management analysis, reduce backlog; • Access, Mobility, and Connectivity: Provide a wider range of mobility options for all users;
  • Visitor Experience: Provide a high quality visitor experience and enhance information sharing;
  • Coordinated Opportunities: Leverage funds through key partnerships, improve internal coordination, and support best practices.
Road paving on refuge, OR | David Ledig, FWS
Road paving on refuge, OR | David Ledig, FWS
Tram at Laguna Atascosa NWR | Steve Hillebrand, FWS
Tram at Laguna Atascosa NWR | Steve Hillebrand, FWS

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/advocacy/funding/transportation/