The largest ever Hike the Hill® brought 123 hikers and trail organization representatives to Washington, D.C. to advocate before congress and the federal government for trail programs and public lands. AHS NextGen Trail Leaders joined trail organizations from the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) for a week of action and celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act. Events and meetings honored the achievements of this landmark law and called on Congress and federal agencies to complete the National Scenic and Historic Trails System and other trails and to fully fund the programs that provide for the stewardship, maintenance, and expansion of trails and public lands.
As a result of Hike the Hill®, so far, two new members joined the House Trails Caucus, Rep. Messer (R-IN-6) and Rep. Larson (D-CT-1), and increased co-sponsor support for important legislation including the Land and Water Conservation Fund (S. 569), the National Park Service Legacy Act (S.751/H.R. 2584), North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act (S. 363/H.R. 1026), and the National Scenic Trails Parity Act (S. 2015/ H.R. 1424)
Among the asks to Congress was for members to publicly speak out in support of public lands. With recent efforts by the current administration to shrink national monuments and proposals that would nearly double the fee to enter our most popular National Parks, it is crucial for our elected officials to vocally oppose these attacks on public land and do everything in their authority to protect these open spaces.
During Hike the Hill®, the President released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which, among other cuts to trails funding, calls for the elimination of support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is America’s most important funding source for building and maintaining trails, and it does it at no cost to American taxpayers because it’s funded through offshore oil and gas leasing. In addition, the legislation that authorizes the LWCF expires on September 30, 2018. Hike the Hill® participants called on both the Administration and Congress to save the LWCF.
NextGen Trail Leaders and other Hike the Hill® participants shared with members of congress and their staff all the projects that they have completed through the fund and were assured by many offices that Members recognize the need to reauthorize the LWCF before it expires later this year. We urge AHS members to contact their Representatives and tell them to pass H.R. 502/S.896/S.569.
The participation of the AHS NextGen Trail Leaders in Hike the Hill® brought a new level of engagement to the advocacy week that expanded the voices that were being represented, putting forward a more inclusive view of hiking and public lands policies.
AHS will seize upon the momentum from Hike the Hill® to continue the push for public lands protections, LWCF reauthorization, and funding for trails in our advocacy efforts. Stay tuned for new opportunities for members to engage.
By Tyler Ray, Director of Policy and Advocacy, American Hiking Society