Passage and signing of the Great American Outdoors Act last week was a big win for National Wildlife Refuges. About 95 million per year for 5 years paid out of federal oil and gas receipts will go to the system nationwide to address the maintenance backlog. Our partner, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, was instrumental in advocating for this bill.
Across Alaska, nearly all 16 National Wildlife Refuges will receive funding for maintenance repairs. Facility upgrades are the main focus, such as outhouse construction, bunkhouse repairs, visitor center revitalization, and warehouse construction. Facilities damaged over the years from river floods and seismic activity will be given priority. Other projects will directly benefit visitors such as trail upgrades and improved river access.
Remoteness and extreme weather make regular maintenance both essential and expensive. Rarely is there enough money in annual budgets to cover maintenance needs resulting in a large backlog of unfunded projects. The Great American Outdoors Act, which will address most of the backlog, will ensure that Alaska refuge’s buildings, trails, and other infrastructure will continue to provide benefits for staff and visitors for years to come.