This past February, advocates from across the nation joined American Hiking Society and the Partnership for the National Trails System in hiking the Hill and making the case for the preservation of trails and the conservation of public lands. Trails advocates from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii made the journey to Washington, DC, learning about trail issues and meeting with legislators and federal agency executives to discuss the protection and creation of trails.
Hike the Hill® kicked off on Sunday, February 12, with a day of briefings on topics such as current legislative issues, federal funding for the National Trails System, and informative briefings from federal agencies including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.
On Monday, the real work began as advocates visited with legislators and their staff in both the Senate and the House as well as with federal agency partners. Among the issues discussed with legislators, were:
Land and Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization and Funding
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is critical to protecting trails and the lands around trails. Attendees advocated for reauthorization of the program, full funding for the program as a whole and specifically for parts that would affect trail lands in the Collaborative Landscape Proposal.
Federal Agency Funding
Advocates supported adequate funding for the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as the Recreational Trails Program within the US Federal Highway Administration. Sufficient staffing for these agencies that manage thousands of miles of trails as well as funding to help leverage all the volunteer efforts is critical to ensuring trails stay safe and open.
Wildfire Suppression Funding
The US Forest Service and the National Park Service are forced to take funding from programs (such as trail maintenance) and put it towards fire suppression as suppression is seldom even remotely satisfactorily funded. This continued underfunding of such a crucial activity wreaks havoc in the budgets of both agencies. The advocates relayed a compelling case from those on the ground about why a fix for this funding issue is urgent.
The National Scenic Trails Parity Act
This bill would make the Ice Age Trail, New England Trail, and North Country Trail units of the National Park System, assisting in the management of these Congressionally-designated long-distance trails.
The North Country Trail Route Adjustment Act
As a Congressionally-designated National Scenic Trail, the North Country Trail requires an Act of Congress to amend the original route Congress approved years ago which turned out to be unfeasible. This Act would allow the trail to connect via a northern route in Minnesota as well as connect it to the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail in the east.
The House Trails Caucus
Members of the Trails Caucus are among our best trails champions in Congress. Advocates informed Members about the Caucus and requested their participation in this group.
American Hiking Society sends a big “thank you” to all who participated, who helped make it a success, and who joined our efforts to ensure that the places we love to hike will be maintained for tomorrow and protected for generations.