The Honorable Lisa Murkowski                                  The Honorable Joe Manchin

Chairman                                                                         Ranking Member

Committee on Energy & Natural Resources          Committee on Energy & Natural Resources

304 Dirksen Senate Building                                     304 Dirksen Senate Building

Washington, DC 20510                                                Washington, DC 20510

 

June 14, 2019

Re: American Hiking Society Statement in Support of Deferred Maintenance Solution Inclusive of all Federal Lands

Dear Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Manchin, and Members of the Committee,

On behalf of the American Hiking Society, our members, supporters, and the millions-strong hiking community nationwide, we encourage the committee to address the deferred maintenance needs across all federally managed lands including those administered by, the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

Current Deferred Maintenance Trail Backlogs

When annual maintenance needs go unaddressed, long-term problems arise, seriously hampering the public’s access to outdoor recreation. Closed trails, out-of-service restrooms, campgrounds in poor conditions, and impassable roads are only a few of the barriers that hikers face. In turn, local economies that rely on trail recreation suffer.

As of 2018, 191,412 miles of trails on federal lands need an estimated $900 billion of maintenance.

 

Agency Trails Deferred Maintenance Amount
Forest Service[1] 157,000 miles $300 million (trails)
 

National Park Service[2]

18,844 miles $462 million (trails)
Fish & Wildlife Service[3] 2,100 miles (13,300 miles (roads, trails, and bridges combined)  

$52.7 million (trails est. based on % of overall DM $336 million for (roads, trails, and bridges).

Bureau of Land Management[4] 13, 468 miles (82,000 miles of roads)  

 

$86.1 million (trails est. based on % of overall DM $615 million for (roads, trails, and bridges).[5]

All Agencies  (191,412 miles trail specific) $900.8 billion

 

Deferred Maintenance Impacts Economic Activity and Recreation Access

The economic impact of trails and the potential increased economic activity from addressing deferred maintenance needs would be significant. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, trail centered activities directly generate over $594 billion[6] and nearly 3.5 million jobs.[7] On federally managed land, outdoor recreation contributes more than $64.6 billion to the national economy and supports more than 623,000 jobs annually.[8] Much of this spending takes place in small communities along each of the trails, communities for which this income is substantial, meaningful, and will remain local. Many of the jobs trails create cannot be exported offshore: guides and outfitters, hotel staff and restauranteurs, and numerous others directly benefit the community in which they reside. Open and well-maintained trails are essential for this continued economic benefit.

The maintenance of our nation’s trails is largely supported by trail organizations and citizen volunteers who leverage government resources to maintain and expand our trails.   On the National Trails System alone, since 1995, hundreds of thousands of citizen volunteers have contributed more than 19 million hours to build and maintain National Scenic and Historic Trails, and nonprofit trail organizations have contributed more than $200 million toward trail stewardship projects, a total value of $577.4 million.[9]

Trails are more than just an economic engine. Since our nation’s founding, the outdoors has been a distinctive part of our American heritage, and trails are integral to that. Whether it’s a family out for a hike on a nearby trail, a returning veteran walking off the war, or hunters and anglers accessing their sites, Americans continue to seek places for outdoor recreation, a connection to nature, and healthy exercise. By addressing long overdue improvements to trails and the surrounding infrastructure, Congress can ensure that outdoor recreation remains open and accessible.

Support: S. 500, Restore Our Parks Act

S. 500 is a first step toward addressing the National Parks System’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.[10] The bill creates a fund that would provide $6.5 billion over five years from energy development revenues on federal land and water to meet some of the most pressing deferred maintenance needs within the National Park Service,[11] including $462 million in trail maintenance on 18,844 miles of trails.[12]

We appreciate the need to address the large backlog for the National Park Service. At the same time, we encourage the committee to address the $9.5 billion in maintenance needs across lands managed by other federal agencies, including US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.[13]

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

[1] See Carol Hardy Vincent, Congressional Research Serv., Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2007-FY2016 Estimates and Issues 3 (Apr. 25, 2017), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43997.pdf. See also U.S. Dep’t of Agric., FY 2019 Budget Justification 75 (Feb. 2018), available at https://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/usfs-fy19-budget-justification.pdf.

[2] Nat’l Park Serv., Nat’l Park Serv. Asset Inventory Summary FY17, available at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/plandesignconstruct/upload/FY17-Asset-Inventory-Summary-AIS-Servicewide_Report_508-3.pdf.

[3] FWS total includes deferred maintenance not limited to trails as trail specific breakdowns are not publicly available. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv., Bureau Highlights (2018), available at https://edit.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/fy2019_bib_bh059.pdf; U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Serv., Budget Justifications and Performance Information Fiscal Year 2019 NWRS-10 (2018),

[4] BLM total includes deferred maintenance not limited to trails as trail specific breakdowns are not publicly available. Carol Hardy Vincent, Congressional Research Serv., Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2007-FY2016 Estimates and Issues 3 (Apr. 25, 2017), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43997.pdf.

[5] Trail specific data not publicly available. Bureau of Land Management, Roads and Trails Terminology 7 (2006), available at https://www.blm.gov/documents/national-office/blm-library/technical-note/roads-and-trails-terminology.

[6] OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, OUTDOOR RECREATION ECONOMY 18 (2017), available at  https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/OIA_RecEconomy_FINAL_Single.pdf. Trail centered activities generated $594,311,835,880 from including retail spending, salaries, and federal and state taxes.

[7] Id. Trail centered activities create 3,476,845 jobs.

[8] OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, OUTDOOR RECREATION ECONOMY 15 (2017), available at https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/OIA_RecEconomy_FINAL_Single.pdf;  “Forest Service Makes it Easier for Visitors to Enjoy National Forests and Grasslands.” U.S. Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/news/releases/forest-service-makes-it-easier-visitors-enjoy-national-forests-and-grasslands.

[9] Partnership for the National Trails System, Contributions Sustaining the National Scenic and Historic Trails (2018), http://pnts.org/new/partnership-for-the-national-trails-system-gold-sheet-of-volunteer-contributions-in-2018/.

[10] What Is Deferred Maintenance?, NPS.gov, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/infrastructure/deferred-maintenance.htm (last visited Sept. 29, 2018).  

[11] This funding includes funds from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenue, which also provides funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

[12] Nat’l Park Serv., Nat’l Park Serv. Asset Inventory Summary FY17, available at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/plandesignconstruct/upload/FY17-Asset-Inventory-Summary-AIS-Servicewide_Report_508-3.pdf.

[13] See Exploring Innovative Solutions to Reduce the Department of the Interior’s Maintenance Backlog Before the H. Comm on Natural Resources, 115th Cong. (2018) (statement of U.S. Dep’t of the Interior), available at https://www.doi.gov/ocl/doi-maintenance-backlog; See also U.S. Dep’t of Agric., Office of Inspector Gen., Forest Service Deferred Maintenance 2 (May 2017), available at https://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/08601-0004-31.pdf.