A week in D.C.
More than 125 people representing nearly 40 trail organizations from throughout the country traveled to Washington, D.C. this February to “Hike the Hill.” Hike the Hill® is a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) and the American Hiking Society (AHS) 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 leaders of the Federal land management agencies, congressional staff, and members of Congress to discuss the opportunities for and the threats facing our NTS. Some of the main issues or pieces of legislation discussed include the funding and reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund that’s set to expire in September, completing and increasing funding for the national trails, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, and opposing amending the Wilderness Act to allow bikes.
Some partners also had the opportunity to meet with Tony Tooke, the new U.S. Forest Service Chief, and “Recreation Czar” Rick May, the new U.S. Department of Interior Senior Advisor, to discuss their trail-related priorities.
Young leaders with American Hiking Society’s inaugural class of NextGen Trail Leaders, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Next Generation Advisory Council, and students from the Environmental Charter High School also attended Hike the Hill to learn, network, share their stories, and advocate for trails and public lands.
Since 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act (NTSA) and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a few additional meetings and events were held during Hike the Hill to coordinate efforts, commemorate the anniversary, and plan for the future. These events included a Rivers and Trails Panel with the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture and 50th Anniversary receptions held by PNTS/AHS (watch the program) and the National Forest Foundation.
During our meetings with leaders, we discussed the importance of increasing Federal funding for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service trails programs, which would help leverage our ability to care for, connect, and protect our NTS.
In 2017 alone, for every Federal dollar provided the return on investment equaled 1.5:1—thanks to volunteer stewardship of the trails. In total, over 1,045,000 hours of volunteer service were documented within the NTS, which equates to a value of over $25,795,000.
Additionally, private contributions from the national trails organizations for the NTS totaled over $14,485,000. However, as incredible as these contributions are, they are not enough to fully develop and sustain our trails.
Full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (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. Click here for LWCF and Congressional Updates.
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.
There is much work yet to be done to make the national trails fully usable and beneficial to all Americans. There are a number of ways to show your support for the trails through the 50th Anniversary year and beyond. To learn how you can attend a trail event, purchase swag, share your story, participate in a photo contest, and donate, visit www.Trails50.org.
We’d like to thank our Federal agency partners at the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service who administer and manage our national trails for their continued support of the NTS as well as the many members of Congress who support our nation’s trails; and the following organizations for joining us at this year’s event:
- American Endurance Ride Conference
- American Hiking Society
- Anza Trail Foundation
- Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association
- Appalachian Mountain Club
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
- Arizona Trail Association
- Back Country Horsemen of America
- Connecticut Forest & Park Association
- Continental Divide Trail Coalition
- East Bay Regional Park District
- Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center
- El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association
- Finger Lakes Trail Conference
- Florida Trail Association
- Hayward Area Recreation & Park District
- Ice Age Trail Alliance
- John Muir Trail Foundation
- Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
- Lewis and Clark Trust, Inc.
- Natchez Trace Parkway Association
- National Pony Express Association
- National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, Inc.
- National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance
- Next Generation Advisory Council
- Nez Perce Trail Foundation
- North Country Trail Association
- Old Spanish Trail Association
- Oregon-California Trails Association
- Overmountain Victory Trail Association
- Pacific Crest Trail Association
- Pacific Northwest Trail Association
- Partnership for the National Trails System
- Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
- Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards
- Trails50 Coalition
- Trust for Public Land
- Vasque Footwear
- Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado
Check out more photos from 2018 Hike the Hill on our Facebook page.