By Reader Staff
The Idaho Panhandle National Forests managers announced plans March 17 to initiate 11 projects this year to address deferred maintenance and improve visitor experiences at popular recreation sites. The efforts will be paid for with help from funding provided by Congress last year through the Great American Outdoors Act.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 8 that it would invest $285 million in 2021 to help National Forests and Grasslands across the country address critical deferred maintenance, and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure, with funding established by the federal Act. Part of that investment includes projects on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
Combined with grants from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, IPNF officials announced that this year’s Great American Outdoors Act funds will allow them to begin improvement projects at recreation sites highly valued by the public, while contributing to economic development in rural areas.
Of the Idaho Panhandle projects that will be initiated in fiscal year 2021, one will directly benefit the residents of Bonner County: The Priest Lake Deferred Maintenance Reduction Project will replace fire rings and picnic tables at some of the National Forest’s busiest recreation sites around Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake, including boat-in sites at Bartoo Island, Bottle Bay, Geisinger, Kalispell Island, Navigation, Plowboy, Tule Bay and Trapper.
Other projects will undertake trail maintenance and reconstruction with the help of partner and volunteer groups in areas that have not received trail maintenance in recent years. This year’s plans include brushing out and clearing more than 68 miles of trails in the Mallard Larkins Pioneer Area and the Upper St. Joe River, as well as trail maintenance and reconstruction on the Canyon Creek Trail No. 16, the Red Top Trail No. 102, and the Bussard and Rutledge Trails near Bonners Ferry.
Additionally, this year’s funds will be used on projects to replace outdated toilets at many trailheads, campgrounds, boat launches and other recreation sites across the National Forest with new facilities that meet accessibility requirements.
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