FY19 Trail Funding Coalition Letter (PDF Version)


The Honorable Richard Shelby                                                                           The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen

Chairman                                                                                                                 Chairman

Committee on Appropriations                                                                            Committee on Appropriations


The Honorable Patrick Leahy                                                                              The Honorable Nita Lowey

Vice Chairman                                                                                                         Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations                                                                             Committee on Appropriations


The Honorable Lisa Murkowski                                                                          The Honorable Ken Calvert

Chairwoman                                                                                                            Chairman

Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies          Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies


The Honorable Tom Udall                                                                                    The Honorable Betty McCollum

Ranking Member                                                                                                    Ranking Member

Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies           Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies


May 18, 2018

Dear Chairpersons and Ranking Members:

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the National Trails System, created by Congress as a dynamic experiment in citizen-based public/private trail-building for public benefit. The experiment worked — in every state, from local bicycle/pedestrian trails connecting neighborhoods to long-distance paths leading through some of America’s most remote and scenic landscapes and historic places.  Americans have walked, hiked, snowshoed, and cross-country skied these trails.  They have ridden their horses and bikes down these trails and have accessed their hunting, fishing, and camping sites.  Since 1995, tens of thousands of citizen volunteers have contributed more than 18 million hours to build and maintain these trails, and nonprofit trail organizations over $186 million toward building and maintaining trails, a total value of $538 million.[1] Outdoor recreation on National Forest lands alone contributes more than $13 billion dollars to the national economy and supports over 205,000 jobs annually.[2] National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments and other public lands and waters account for $50 billion in economic output and 426,000 jobs nationwide.[3]

While we applaud Congress for preserving trail funding in FY18, it is exceedingly unfortunate that the Administration’s 2019 budget fails to provide for even the most basic necessities to maintain and manage these critical recreation resources, putting the past 50 years of partnership and hard work in jeopardy. Trails are the gateway to nearly every facet of outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, camping, and more. A failure to maintain and manage our nation’s trails stymies economic growth and access to healthy outdoor recreation.

Broadly, the Administration’s budget would:

  • Undo decades of work by agencies, volunteers, and nonprofit organizations;
  • Fail to leverage the millions of dollars donated by state and local governments and nonprofit trail organizations as well as volunteer labor each year; and
  • Threaten the livelihoods of the 7.6 million Americans whose jobs depend directly on the outdoor recreational activities that take place on trails.[4]

We, the undersigned, urge you to adopt the following funding requests so the federal government can continue to benefit from private contributions and volunteer labor as well as provide inexpensive, healthy outdoor recreation options for your constituents:

Forest Service

In 2016, Congress passed what was termed “the most bipartisan bill in Congress” — the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act — to reduce the maintenance backlog on 156,000 miles of trails in the National Forests. Unfortunately, the Administration’s 2019 budget cuts fly in the face of Congressional intent.


  • Fund Capital Improvement and Maintenance, Trails budget at $100M to address trail maintenance backlog and implementation of National Forest System Trail Stewardship Act (increase of $20M from FY18 and of $93M from the FY19 proposed budget);
  • Fund Recreation, Heritage & Wilderness at $261M (increase of $3.2M above FY18 and of $76M from the FY19 proposed budget); and
  • Maintain funding for the Legacy Roads & Trails program to at least $40M (FY18 enacted; an increase of $40M from the FY19 proposed budget).

National Park Service

The National Park Service not only maintains trails within park units such as Yellowstone and Acadia National Parks, but also has administrative responsibility for 23 National Scenic and Historic Trails. Last year 331 million people visited a national park unit, and trails were integral to these visits.[5]


  • Park Service Operations for the National Trails System must be maintained at a minimum of $16.5M (an increase of $4.735M from the FY19 proposed budget);
  • Maintain funding for the Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program at $10.033M (FY18 enacted; an increase of $0.9M from the FY19 proposed budget);
  • Restore the Challenge Cost Share program, funding at $1.5M, to leverage private donations for public benefit (Administration proposed elimination in FY19 budget);
  • Restore funding for Volunteers in Parks programs to leverage private donations for public benefit, funding at $8M (proposed $4M cut in FY19 budget);
  • Fund Visitor Services subactivity, Youth Partnership Programs, at $10.95M (proposed $5.15M cut in FY19 budget)

Bureau of Land Management

According to the Bureau of Land Management, as previously stated, the proposed 29% cut to its National Conservation Lands would “affect visitor services, including maintenance and care of trails and trailheads, grounds maintenance, campground access, river and trail access and interpretive resources.”[6]


  • Fund National Conservation Lands, to enhance recreational access, conserve the Nation’s heritage and manage these nationally recognized resources at $75M (an increase of $48.7M from the FY19 proposed budget);
  • Fund National Conservation Lands- National Scenic Historic Trails, subactivity Recreation Resources Management, which preserves, provides public access to, and allows for the enjoyment of these trails, at $9.8M (an increase of $5.7M from the FY19 proposed budget); and
  • Increase Challenge Cost Share program funding, which leverages private donations for public benefit to $3M (increase of $2M from FY19 budget)

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Proposed cuts in Refuge Visitor Services would negatively affect environmental education and birding programs and hours of operation for some visitor centers.


  • Fund Refuge Visitor Services at $73.2M (increase of $0.1M from FY18 enacted levels; an increase of $94M from FY19 proposed budget)

Land & Water Conservation Fund

With the proposed elimination of funding in the FY19 budget, the LWCF would be unable to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. In this 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System, the cuts would prevent congressionally designated trails from advancing towards completion. We ask that, as Congress did in FY18 funding, it reject these proposed cuts and restore funding for the LWCF.

The proposed funding cuts demonstrate a breach of faith with the public, which was promised that in exchange for the depletion of one public resource (offshore energy), they would be provided access to outdoor recreation:

NPS – 102% cut from FY18; no funding for federal land acquisition or recreational access

BLM – 126% cut from FY18; no funding for land acquisitions or recreation access

FWS – 87% cut from FY18; no funding for land recreation access

USFS – 126% cut from FY18; no funding for land acquisitions, Forest Legacy easements to protect working forests, or recreation access


  • At a minimum, fund LWCF at the $450M level so that the projects of highest importance can be completed for public benefit; and
  • Include within this appropriation $54.8M for National Scenic and Historic Trails projects
    • Many of the projects offer a unique opportunity to acquire lands that will help protect trails or close existing gaps between sections of these Congressionally-designated trails; and
    • Once land is acquired, volunteers and private funding stand ready to build/maintain the trails.
  • As you are aware, the LWCF program expires on September 30, 2018. We ask that you permanently reauthorize the program.

We look forward to working with Congress to fulfill these requests to protect, preserve, and maintain trails. For additional information please contact Tyler Ray, American Hiking Society, [email protected]. Gary Werner, Partnership for the National Trails System, [email protected], Randy Rasmussen , Back Country Horsemen of America, [email protected], or Mike Passo, American Trails, [email protected].


40 Mile Loop Land Trust, Portland, Oregon

Accessible Trails Foundation

AccessWorks, Inc.

The Acorn Group

Ala Kahakai Trail Association

Alaska State Parks

Alaska Trails

Almanor Recreation and Park District

American Discovery Trail Society

American Endurance Ride Conference

American Hiking Society

American Trails

Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Arizona Trail Association

Back Country Horsemen of America

Back Country Horsemen of California

Back Country Horsemen of California, High Sierra Unit

Back Country Horsemen of California, Mother Lode Unit

Back Country Horsemen of Colorado, Front Range Chapter

Back Country Horsemen of Iowa

Back Country Horsemen of Oregon

Back Country Horsemen of Southwest Virginia

Back Country Horsemen of the Virginia Highlands

Back Country Horsemen of Virginia, Golden Horseshoe Chapter

Back Country Horsemen of Washington

Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Ponderosa Chapter

Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Traildusters Chapter

Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Whatcom Chapter

Back Country Horsemen Washington, Tahoma Chapter

Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen

Wyoming Back Country HorsemenBay Area Barns and Trails

Bay State Trail Riders Association, Inc.

Bike Tiverton

Blue Mountains Conservancy

Boulder Area Trails Coalition (BATCO)

Buckeye Trail Association

Cache County Trails Planning

Cape Horn Conservancy

Central Oregon Trail Alliance

Central Washington Endurance Riders

Champlain Area Trails

Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy

Chelan-Douglas Land Trust

Chesapeake Conservancy

Chinook Trail Association

Choose Outdoors

City of Carpinteria

City of Redding

Coastal Georgia Greenway, Inc.

Colorado Mountain Club

Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association

Connecticut Forest & Park Association

Continental Divide Trail Society

The Corps Network

Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail (C2C Trail)

County Line Riders of Catalina, INC

Cullman County Economic Development

Cumberland Trails Conference

Donald Hoch, Director, Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission

E mau na Ala Hele

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association

Enchanted Circle Trails Association

Equine Alliance Youth Foundation

Florida Trail Association

Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition

Friends of Blackwater, Inc.

Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park

Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Friends of the Cheat

Friends of the Desert Mountains

Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Friends of the Tonto National Forest

Friends of Van Cortlandt Park

Friends of Weiser River Trail

Harrison Rail Trails, Inc.

Helac Corporation


Hestafolk 4-H Club

Hestafölk Icelandic Horse Club

Huron Waterloo Pathway Initiative


Ice Age Trail Alliance

Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance

The Intertwine Alliance

Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority

Jamestown Parks and Recreation (North Dakota)

Keystone Trails Association

Lake Champlain Committee

Lake Ray Roberts Equestrian Trail Association

Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc.

Lewis and Clark Trust, Inc.

Linn County Iowa Conservation

Madison Byways

Marin County Bicycle Coalition

Marin Municipal Water District

Maui Mountain Bike Coalition


Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

M-NCPPC, Montgomery County Department of Parks

Mode Shift Omaha

Mormon Trails Association

National Coast Trail Association

Nevada All-State Trail Riders

New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

Nez Perce Trail Foundation

Nickel Plate Trail

North Country Trail Association (NCTA)

North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the NCTA

Oregon Equestrian Trails

Oregon Horse Country (Oregon Horse Council)

Oregon Natural Desert Association

Oregon-California Trails Association

Outside Las Vegas Foundation, dba Get Outdoors Nevada

Overmountain Victory Trail Association

Ozark Highlands Trail Association

Ozark Trail Association

Pacific Crest Trail Association

Parks & Trails New York

Partnership for the National Trails System

Pathfinders For Greenways

Pearl City Sno-Pearls

Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation

Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society

Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance

Pima Trails Association

Portage Park District Foundation, Ravenna, OH

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Rail-Trail Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc.

Recreation Outdoors Coalition

Rock County Multi Use Trail Group

Rockfish Valley Foundation

Rocky Mountain Field Institute

Ruby Valley Cycling Club

Sam Houston Trails Coalition

San Joaquin River Trail Council

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Santa Fe Trail Association

Scenic Trails Research

Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition

Simpson University Outdoor Leadership

Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition

Southern Appalachian Bicycle Association

Southern Kettle Moraine Horse Trail Association

Southern Oregon Trail Alliance

Southwest Trail & Distance Riders

Spring Trust for Trust

Student Conservation Association

Superior Hiking Trail Association

Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership

Town of Castle Rock Parks & Recreation

Trail Insight

Trail of Tears Association

Trailkeepers of Oregon

Trails & Bikeways Council of Greater Redding

Trails and Open Space Coalition

Trails Inspire, LLC

Trails Utah

Triangle Greenways Council


Upper Valley Trails Alliance

Vernon Township Recreation

Victor Hiking Trails, Inc.

Volcanic Legacy Community Partnership

Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona

Waldo County Trails Coalition

Walk Sitka

Warrior Expeditions

Washington Trails Association

The Wilderness Society

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers

Wisconsin Horse Council Trails Committee

Wyoming Pathways

York County Rail Trail Authority

[1] 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-2017/.

[2] Outdoor Recreation Economy, Outdoor Industry Association 15 (2017), 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.

[3] Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2016. U.S. Department of the Interior 2 (2017), https://doi.sciencebase.gov/doidv/files/FY%202016%20DOI%20Economic%20Report%202017-09-25.pdf.

[4] Outdoor Recreation Economy, Outdoor Industry Association 5 (2017), https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/OIA_RecEconomy_FINAL_Single.pdf.

[5] “National Park System Sees More Than 330 Million Visits”, National Park Service (Feb. 28, 2018), https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/02-28-2018-visitation-certified.htm.

[6] Fiscal Year 2018 The Interior Budget In Brief, Department of the Interior BH-9 (May 2017) https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/2018_highlights_book.pdf.