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    Oregon Horse Country in Support of Trail Funding

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    May 15, 2018

    Oregon Horse Country is part of the growing list of supports signing the letter below that is being sent to the Appropriations Committee.  With Fiscal year 2019 appropriations is in full swing, the American Hiking Society (AHS), The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS), Backcountry Horsemen of America (BCHA), and American Trails organized a trail focused sign-on letter as they did last year with success.  The goal is to keep funding for our trail systems across the nation.
     



    The Honorable Richard Shelby

    Chairman
    Committee on Appropriations

    The Honorable Patrick Leahy
    Vice Chairman
    Committee on Appropriations

    The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
    Chairwoman
    Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

    The Honorable Tom Udall
    Ranking Member
    Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

    The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen
    Chairman
    Committee on Appropriations

    The Honorable Nita Lowey
    Ranking Member
    Committee on Appropriations

    The Honorable Ken Calvert
    Chairman
    Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

    The Honorable Betty McCollum
    Ranking Member
    Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies


    May 16, 2018

    Dear Chairpersons and Ranking Members:

    This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the National Trails System, created by Congress as a dynamic experiment in citizen-based public/private trail-building for public benefit. The experiment worked -- in every state, from local bicycle/pedestrian trails connecting neighborhoods to long-distance paths leading through some of America's most remote and scenic landscapes and historic places. Americans have walked, hiked, snowshoed, and cross-country skied these trails. They have ridden their horses and bikes down these trails and have accessed their hunting, fishing, and camping sites. Since 1995, tens of thousands of citizen volunteers have contributed more than 18 million hours to build and maintain these trails, and nonprofit trail organizations over $186 million toward building and maintaining trails, a total value of $538 million. Outdoor recreation on National Forest lands alone contributes more than $13 billion dollars to the national economy and supports over 205,000 jobs annually. National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments and other public lands and waters account for $50 billion in economic output and 426,000 jobs nationwide.

    While we applaud Congress for preserving trail funding in FY18, it is exceedingly unfortunate that the Administration’s 2019 budget fails to provide for even the most basic necessities to maintain and manage these critical recreation resources, putting the past 50 years of partnership and hard work in jeopardy. Trails are the gateway to nearly every facet of outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, camping, and more. A failure to maintain and manage our nation’s trails stymies economic growth and access to healthy outdoor recreation .


    Broadly, the Administration’s budget would:

    • Undo decades of work by agencies, volunteers, and nonprofit organizations;
    • Fail to leverage the millions of dollars donated by state and local governments and nonprofit trail organizations as well as volunteer labor each year; and
    • Threaten the livelihoods of the 7.6 million Americans whose jobs depend directly on the outdoor recreational activities that take place on trails.

    We, the undersigned, urge you to adopt the following funding requests so the federal government can continue to benefit from private contributions and volunteer labor as well as provide inexpensive, healthy outdoor recreation options for your constituents:

    Forest Service

    In 2016, Congress passed what was termed “the most bipartisan bill in Congress” -- the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act -- to reduce the maintenance backlog on 156,000 miles of trails in the National Forests. Unfortunately, the Administration’s 2019 budget cuts fly in the face of Congressional intent.

    Action:

    • Fund Capital Improvement and Maintenance, Trails budget at $100M to address trail maintenance backlog and implementation of National Forest System Trail Stewardship Act (increase of $20M from FY18 and of $87.93M from the FY19 proposed budget);
    • Fund Recreation, Heritage & Wilderness at $261M (increase of $3.2M above FY18 and of $20.76M from the FY19‌ proposed budget); and
    • Maintain funding for the Legacy Roads & Trails program to at least $40M (FY18 enacted; an increase of $40M from theFY19 proposed budget).

    National Park Service

    The National Park Service not only maintains trails within park units such as Yellowstone and Acadia National Parks, but also has administrative responsibility for 23 National Scenic and Historic Trails. Last year 331 million people visited a national park unit, and trails were integral to these visits.

    Action:

    • Park Service Operations for the National Trails System must be maintained at a minimum of $16.5M (an increase of $4.735 from the FY19 proposed budget);
    • Maintain funding for the Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program at $10.033M (FY18 enacted; an increase of $0.9M from the FY19 proposed budget);
    • Restore the Challenge Cost Share program, funding at $1.5M, to leverage private donations for public benefit
    • (Administration proposed elimination in FY19 budget);
    • Restore funding for Volunteers in Parks programs to leverage private donations for public benefit, funding at $8M (proposed $4M cut in FY19 budget);
    • Fund Visitor Services subactivity, Youth Partnership Programs, at $10.95M (proposed $5.15M cut in FY19 budget)

    Bureau of Land Management

    According to the Bureau of Land Management, the proposed 29% cut to its National Conservation Lands would “affect visitor services, including maintenance and care of trails and trailheads, grounds maintenance, campground access, river and trail access and interpretive resources.”

    Action:

    • Fund National Conservation Lands, to enhance recreational access, conserve that Nation’s heritage and manage these nationally recognized resources at $75M (an increase of $48.7M from the FY19 proposed budget);
    • Fund National Conservation Lands- National Scenic Historic Trails subactivity Recreation Resources Management, which preserves, provides public access to, and allows for the enjoyment of these trails, at $9.8M (an increase of $5.7M from the FY19 proposed budget); and
    • Increase Challenge Cost Share program funding, which leverages private donations for public benefit to $3M (increase of $2M from FY19 budget)

    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

    Proposed cuts in Refuge Visitor Services would negatively affect environmental education and birding programs and
    hours of operation for some visitor centers.

    Action:

    • Fund Refuge Visitor Services at $73.2M (increase of $0.1M from FY18 enacted levels; an increase of $1.94 from FY19 proposed budget)

    Land & Water Conservation Fund

    With the proposed elimination of funding in the FY19 budet, the LWCF would be unable to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. In this 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System, the cuts would prevent congressionally designated trails from advancing towards completion. We ask that, as Congress did in FY18 funding, it reject these proposed cuts and restore funding for the LWCF.

    The proposed funding cuts demonstrate a breach of faith with the public, which was promised that in exchange for the depletion of one public resource (offshore energy), they would be provided access to outdoor recreation:

    NPS – 102% cut from FY18; no funding for federal land acquisition or recreational access
    BLM – 126% cut from FY18; no funding for land acquisitions or recreation access
    FWS – 87% cut from FY18; no funding for l recreation access
    USFS – 126% cut from FY18; no funding for land acquisitions, Forest Legacy easements to protect working forests, or
    recreation access

    Action:

    • At a minimum, fund LWCF at the $450M level so that the projects of highest importance can be completed for public benefit; and
    • Include within this appropriation $54.8M for National Scenic and Historic Trails projects
    • Many of the projects offer a unique opportunity to acquire lands that will help protect trails or close existing gaps between sections of these Congressionally-designated trails; and
    • Once land is acquired, volunteers and private funding stand ready to build/maintain the trails.

    As you are aware, the LWCF program expires on September 30, 2018. We ask that you permanently reauthorize the
    program.

    We look forward to working with Congress to fulfill these requests to protect, preserve, and maintain trails. For additional information please contact Tyler Ray, American Hiking Society, tray@americanhiking.org. Gary Werner, Partnership for the National Trails System, gary@pnts.org, Randy Rasmussen , Back Country Horsemen of America, WildernessAdvisor@bcha.org, or Mike Passo, American Trails, mikepasso@americantrails.org.

    Sincerely

     

    Contact:
    Brandi Ebner, IOM, Executive Director
    (971) 224-5879