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For Immediate Release, December 24, 2007

Contacts: Chris Kassar, Center for Biological Diversity (520) 609-7685
Matt Skroch, Sky Island Alliance, (520) 247-1754
Guy McPherson, Ph.D, University of Arizona, (520) 621-5389

Congress Approves $40 Million for Watershed Restoration
Funding on Forest Service Lands;
Funds Would Target Urgently Needed Road Removal,
Repair, and Maintenance Across the Nation

TUCSON, Ariz.— On Dec. 19, Congress passed an appropriations bill setting aside $39.4 million for urgently needed watershed restoration on national forest lands. This money will be used to reclaim or repair Forest Service roads in areas where decaying roads contribute to water-quality and erosion problems, especially in areas that support threatened or endangered species like the Chiricahua leopard frog and Gila chub.

"This funding represents a critical first step in the development of common-sense solutions that include both retiring unnecessary roads and focusing scarce resources on proper maintenance of roads that best serve the public," said Matt Skroch, executive director of the Sky Island Alliance, a regional land and wildlife conservation organization based in Tucson.

"The fact that Arizona's national forests host thousands of miles of illegal and resource-damaging roads underscores our sense of urgency to restore and maintain failing forest roads," added Chris Kassar, wildlife biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Species such as the jaguar, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Gila chub will suffer if we don't begin a long-term fix right away. This funding will be a major step forward in helping partners who work on these issues to secure protections for these critters."

The passage of this legislation is the result of cooperative work among conservation groups, tribes, state leaders, individuals, and congressional representatives. Representative Norm Dicks, D, Wash., Senator Maria Cantwell, D, Wash., and Representative Raúl Grijalva, D, Ariz. led the effort in Congress.

"This legislation is very timely," said Dr. Guy McPherson, professor of natural resources at the University of Arizona. "Road removal and stormproofing are crucial steps to prepare our national forest watersheds for the kinds of storms and fires expected under future climate conditions. Doing nothing is simply not an option if we care about our watersheds and the wildlife that inhabits them."

"Congressmen Dicks and Grijalva understand how damaging forest roads can be to clean water, fish, and wildlife, and their leadership on this issue is critical to the long-term restoration of our forest watersheds,” said Skroch. “This funding is an important first step toward our longer-term needs, which the state of Arizona has estimated at $200 million.”

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