You did it! America now has a 5-year Transportation bill that has passed both chambers of Congress and will go to the White House for the President’s signature next week where it will be made the law of the land. And in a tremendous victory for America’s hikers and other outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) remains a vital part of the bill with annual funding of $85 Million.
A little background: RTP, utilizing a “user-pay/user-benefit” model, uses just a small portion of the taxes from the sale of fuel purchased by nonhighway trail users such as off road vehicles and snowmobiles. These funds are used for all sorts of trail projects: projects that benefit not just motorized trail users but also hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. These RTP funds are distributed to the states which subsequently awards grants for various trail projects.
Unfortunately, RTP has been a frequent target for some lawmakers since they feel that the transportation bill should focus only on moving cars and trucks since it is largely – though by no means exclusively – paid for by fuel taxes. In fact, as mentioned earlier, RTP is funded through its own user-pay/user-benefit gas tax.
You Took Action!
However, thanks to so many of American Hiking Society’s individual members, Alliance members, and others throughout the hiking community, a solid case was made to our elected officials that this user-funded program has real value. Advocates made it clear that RTP is fundamental to healthy outdoor recreation in thousands of communities throughout our nation.
This is a huge win for our community. Many times we deal with funding for trails through the annual appropriations process, but the long-term nature of the Transportation Bill funding impacts the trails community for five full years with no opportunities to make up lost ground (literally!) were RTP to have been omitted.
American Hiking Society also thanks the coalition of which we are a part – the Coalition for Recreational Trails. This incredible group of dedicated organizations and individuals played a major role in rapidly responding to emerging threats to RTP, stayed in close contact with Members of Congress, and repeatedly made the case for trails in this user-funded program.
We also want to thank our bipartisan trails champions in the U.S. Congress – they worked tirelessly to ensure that RTP was understood among their colleagues and did so much to help get it across the finish line.
You Deserve a Reward
This is a big deal and each one of you who made a phone call, sent an email, provided AHS with the resources to spend time on Capitol Hill through your generous donations, and spread the message of trails should be incredibly proud. You did this!
Sure, once the bill becomes law there will be work to be done to ensure these funds are employed and projects funded and so on, but for now – let’s take a breather and go out and celebrate. Let’s get out on those trails you’ve all worked so hard to protect and take a victory lap. Go enjoy. You’ve earned this.