The Partnership for the National Trails System thanks Congress for finally appropriating the money to fund Federal agencies—including our partners in the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration—through the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (September 30th). Within the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has appropriated $425 million for acquisition of critical lands for conservation and recreation through the Land & Water Conservation Fund—a modest increase over the funding provided for FY 2017. This funding includes $18.359 million to buy land along three of the national historic trails and four of the national scenic trails.
Congress appropriated $2,298,397,000 for the National Park Service to operate the National Park System, including 23 of the national scenic and historic trails. This is an increase of $54.046 million over the funding provided for 2017.
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System this year Congress, provided this direction: “National Trails System—In preparation for the National Trails System’s 50-year anniversary in 2018, the Committees urge the [Park] Service to make funding the construction and maintenance of national trails a priority.” It remains to be seen how the National Park Service will carry out this guidance.
Congress also appropriated $80 million for the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain the 158,000 miles of trails on the national forests, including the five national scenic trails and one national historic trail that it administers and sections of 17 other national trails within national forests. The funding provided for 2018 is $2.47 million more than Congress provided to the Forest Service for the trails in 2017 and is the first increase in trail funding in three or more years.
Additionally in the Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has also permanently reauthorized the Federal Lands Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA), authorizing the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus Federal land and use the money gained from these sales to buy land for conservation and recreation purposes.
Congress also finally passed a comprehensive Wildfire Suppression funding program that should enable the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to pay the increasingly greater costs of suppressing wildfires and eliminate the need to “borrow” funds from other programs to do so.
We applaud Congress for finally resolving these several long-standing issues, but we are disappointed that Congress did not re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which expires on September 30, 2018.