by Gary Werner, Executive Director, Partnership for the National Trails System
As we begin the second 50 years of building, protecting, interpreting, and maintaining the national scenic and historic trails, several new opportunities offer the prospect of significantly enhancing our efforts. The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) is beginning several initiatives to make good use of these opportunities, including providing ways that you can help make them succeed.
LWCF full annual funding
The first opportunity comes with the recent permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by Congress. Congress has assured that the LWCF will continue permanently, funded by receipts from off-shore oil and gas leases. Complementing this essential action, bills with strong bipartisan support have been introduced in both the House and Senate to require annual full funding ($900 million) of the LWCF.
If Congress requires annual full funding of the LWCF, this action will provide a significant increase in Federal funding to enable a significant increase in land preservation projects by both Federal and State agencies. This increased funding will in turn greatly increase the opportunities for land acquisition projects along national scenic and historic trails to be funded. We are on the threshold of a new, greatly enhanced era of public land preservation.
The PNTS is an active member, along with dozens of other national and regional organizations, of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, which is working vigorously to secure the necessary full annual funding to realize the full promise of the LWCF.
The second opportunity has been provided by a two-year funding assistance agreement from the Federal Highway Administration. A substantial amount of this funding is enabling the Partnership to work with the Trust for Public Land to prepare a Gap Analysis for the 30 national scenic and historic trails and a series of reports on best practices and legal means for preserving trail lands. (See the report on this project in this issue of Pathways here.)
We have estimated that there are about 4,000 miles of gaps in 10 of the national scenic trails. We do not know how many “high potential sites and segments” there are along the 19 national historic trails nor how many of them are adequately protected to preserve the quality and integrity of their historic and cultural resources. The Gap Analysis will give us the information to determine these critical attributes of the national trails and to be better able to identify the areas most threatened by incompatible development. This information, in turn, will make our advocacy more credible and compelling for additional LWCF and other resources to protect our trails and their resources.
As the effort to convince Congress to fully fund the LWCF annually intensifies and we begin to do the Gap Analysis for the 30 national scenic and historic trails, a group has been formed within the PNTS to develop a strategy to fully protect the trails. This group of experienced leaders—with decades of experience in national public policy making and legislative work—will fashion a blueprint to guide the advocacy and public policy work of the PNTS to secure significantly more resources for our trails. We are about to embark on a new era emphasizing consistently working to close the gaps in the trails and permanently protecting the natural, cultural, and historic resources that give them such great value.
You have several opportunities to help make our efforts to close the gaps in the scenic trails and preserve the critical sites and segments along the historic trails successful. First, let your Senators and Representatives know how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund is for completing and protecting the resource values of your national trail, and urge them to support full annual funding for the LWCF. Take advantage of Congress’ annual August Recess to invite your members of Congress to join you in touring part of your national trail to reinforce their interest in and support for it and the National Trails System.
Second, you now have the opportunity to help support the Partnership’s advocacy and information gathering work by becoming a Supporter of the PNTS. The PNTS Trail Leaders Council has established a way for individuals, organizations, and corporations to help fund the work we do to develop, protect, and sustain the national scenic and historic trails by joining our Supporter Program. We have a goal to recruit 500 Founding Supporters. You can become one of these Founding Supporters with a tax-deductible contribution of $50 or more. See www.pnts.org for details about various Supporter levels and to join us.
As readers of Pathways, you already strongly support one or several of your favorite national scenic or historic trails. By becoming a Supporter of the PNTS, you will both reinforce and magnify your support for your favorite trails by increasing the ability of the PNTS to provide public policy advocacy and other beneficial services for the national trails community. As a community, we have much greater respect among Congress and the Federal agencies and can exert much greater pressure for securing the resources needed to sustain the national trails. Will you become a Founding Supporter to help the PNTS continue to marshal and amplify the voice of our national trails community in Washington, D.C. and throughout America?
Enjoy the long days of a happy summer!
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.