FS ARRA Project Success- from New West

A portion of the proposed Route of the Olympian along Rainy Creek and one of the two tunnels along the route. Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Here’s a link to the story.

Some quotes:

Still, Charnley and her fellow researchers concluded that in terms of jobs, effects were meaningful but short-term. Longer term community benefits, like a new trail or an improved road, rarely get calculated into the equation. A 30-mile Rails-to-Trails project in western Montana, for instance, didn’t necessarily press the “jobs, jobs” button, but local communities highly dependent upon recreation tourism are excited about the new people the “Route of the Olympian” will bring to town.

Rural Voices participants had mixed reactions to Charnley’s presentation.

Tracy McIntyre is the executive director of the Eureka Rural Development Partners. Eureka, Montana is near the border with Canada, and McIntyre worked hard to help secure ARRA funding for Forest Service projects in her area. “I think it’s neat to see the Forest Service realize that seeking out partners helps them get their work done,” she said.

But concentrating only on the agency’s Recovery Act success stories might be a mistake, in McIntyre’s opinion. “I would have liked to see eight examples that worked, and eight that didn’t,” she offered.

Moseley knows that Congress and taxpayers want to talk about creating jobs, but she wondered aloud if the review of how the Forest Service responded to the urgent directives of the Recovery Act might reveal more than employment numbers. “I would say they rose to the challenge,” she said, noting that the Forest Service was able to get all of its allotted money on the ground, while plenty of federal agencies floundered at the task.

And that fast-paced, high-stakes exercise may have resulted in a shift in the agency that Moseley and her Rural Voices counterparts have spent a decade working for. “With ARRA, the Forest Service finally got it – this is not about acres treated, it’s about jobs, and that’s not something this agency has always understood.”

Contributor to New West Gina Knudson is filing daily updates from this week’s Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition annual policy gathering.

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