We Hike the Hill
Above: Christy Corzine, PNTS board member, and Gary Werner, PNTS Executive Director, pose for a picture outside the Department of Interior South Building
Over 100 individuals representing over 40 trail organizations from throughout the country traveled to Washington, D.C. this February to “Hike the Hill”. Now in its 20th year, Hike the Hill® is a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trails System and the American Hiking Society aimed at increasing congressional and Federal agency leader awareness of funding and authorities needed to sustain the National Trails System (NTS).
During our week in D.C., we met with agency partners, congressional staff, and members of Congress to discuss the opportunities for and the threats facing our NTS.
There are many pieces of legislation that aid or threaten our national trails. The year ahead will prove critical to our NTS. Some of main issues or pieces of legislation we discussed while in Washington are as follows:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) (HR 502):
This is one of the most well-known bi-partisan issues that relates to the NTS. The LWCF provides funding that allows for protection and completion of crucial sections of trails. Revenue from offshore drilling for oil and gas helps to fund various conservation projects with no cost to tax-payers. The LWCF is only authorized until September 30, 2018 and will expire then unless Congress re-authorizes the program. We believe, however, that LWCF should be permanently authorized and fully funded at $900 million annually. There is currently a bill (HR 502) in support of the LWCF in the house, but no similar bill in the Senate.
- Wildfire Disaster Funding:
We believe that the federal government should budget for the suppression of wildfire disasters by treating wildfires like other U.S. disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Currently, more than 50% of the US Forest Service budget is being spent to fight unprecedented wildfires. This takes money away from other important functions such as maintaining national forests and trails.
- Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA)
This bi-partisan act would restore the authority to facilitate the sale of unneeded federal land by the Bureau of Land Management in order to provide funding to purchase high-priority land for conservation and outdoor recreation.
- BLM 2.0
BLM Planning 2.0 makes land use planning more accessible to the public, more responsive to the changing conditions on public lands, and more efficient. Despite its benefits, Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions were introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to prohibit its use moving forward.
- North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment
These bipartisan bills authorize the relocation of the North Country National Scenic Trail along the north shore of Lake Superior and across the Arrowhead of Minnesota to rejoin the existing trail in the Chippewa National Forest. They also authorize extending the trail from the New York-Vermont border to connect with the Long Trail and Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Vermont. These bills repeat bills introduced, but not passed, in the previous Congress.
- National Scenic Trails Parity Act
We expect bills to be introduced that repeat bills introduced, but not passed, in the previous Congress to designate the Ice Age, New England, and North Country National Scenic Trails as units of the National Park System. The other three national scenic trails—Appalachian, Natchez Trace, and Potomac Heritage Trails—administered by the National Park Service (NPS) are units of the National Park System. These bills would instruct the NPS to treat all six of these trails the same within the structure of the National Park System.
Furthermore, we believe that greater federal funding for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and USDA Forest Service’s trails programs will help leverage our ability to care for, connect, and protect our NTS.
In 2016 alone, for every federal dollar provided the return on investment equaled 1.5:1—thanks to volunteer stewardship of the trails. In total, over 1,000,000 hours of volunteer service were documented within the NTS, which equates to a value of over $24,256,000.
Additionally, private contributions from the national trails organizations for the NTS totaled over $13,184,000. However, as incredible as these contributions are, they are not enough to fully develop and sustain our trails. Full funding of the LWCF and greater funding for the agencies’ trail programs by Congress will help to provide means to close missing links, protect high-priority recreational and historic areas, and fund additional maintenance and necessary resources to already existing trails.
50th Anniversary of the National Trails System
Above: Non-profit and Federal agency staff 50th Anniversary planning meeting at the Department of the Interior South Building
During our time in Washington, we also continued to plan for the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act, which will take place in 2018. We are excited to commemorate the 50th anniversary with partners and the public alike. We will continue to work closely with our non-profit and Federal agency partners to educate the public on the NTS, while also inspiring its use and encouraging more people to help sustain the trails.
Many opportunities will be available to take part in the commemoration throughout the next two years. Meanwhile, we encourage you to get involved today by using the hashtag #findyourtrail and by visiting us on the following Trails 50 social media platforms:
Support the Trails
Now, more than ever, it’s important for congress to hear our voice. You too can contact Congress and let them know what issues matter most to you. Collectively, our voices will help to ensure the use and protection of these trails for many generations to come.
We’d like to thank our federal agency partners at the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service who administer and manage our National Trails for their continued support of the NTS as well as the many congressmen and congresswomen who support our nation’s trails; and the following organizations for joining us at this year’s event:
- American Hiking Society
- Ala Kahakai Trail Association
- American Endurance Ride Conference
- American Trails
- Anza Trail Foundation
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
- Appalachian Mountain Club
- Back Country Horsemen of America
- Carson Valley Trails Association
- Continental Divide Trail Coalition
- Chesapeake Conservancy
- Connecticut Forest & Park Association
- E Mau Na Ala Hele
- East Bay Regional Park District
- El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association
- Florida Trail Association
- Hike it Baby
- Ice Age Trail Alliance
- Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance
- Image Pathways LLC
- Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
- Lewis and Clark Trust, Inc.
- Natchez Trace Parkway Association
- National Pony Express Association
- National Trails Guide
- National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance
- Nez Perce Trail Foundation
- North Country Trail Association
- Old Spanish Trail Association
- Overmountain Victory Trail Association
- Pacific Crest Trail Association
- Pacific Northwest Trail Association
- Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
- River Management Society
- Santa Fe Trail Association
- The Trails Fund
- The Trust for Public Land
- Trail of Tears Association
- Trails for Illinois
- Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado