Year-round, AHS leads the trails community in coming together to call on Congress to fund our nation’s trails through annual appropriations. The timely and adequate funding of the government is essential in ensuring public lands and trails have the resources required to provide the recreation, health and wellness, economic, and multitude of other benefits that these places provide. Recently, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Fiscal Year 23 omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government until September 30, 2023.
This bill provides much needed funding for trails and trail related programs and includes long fought victories for the hiking community!
Here are some highlights of what's in the new law!
- The biggest accomplishment was a new National Trails System line item for the Bureau of Land Management and funding at $11M. This has been a nearly decades long advocacy effort and will bring much needed consistent funding and accountability to trails funding within BLM.
- Forest Service Trails Maintenance (to address annual maintenance needs) received an increase of $1.5M+ (over 8%!) to $20M. Collectively, the National Forests provide 159,000 miles of trails for activities ranging from hiking, biking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle usage, groomed winter trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and access points for “river trails.” This trail system is increasingly popular and annual maintenance cannot keep pace with the growing demand due to stagnant and inadequate funding. Annual funding increases will help to address these needs for all users.
- Recreation, Heritage, & Wilderness programs funding in the Forest Service increased by $17M (44%) to $55M. National Forests and Grasslands provide a great diversity of outdoor recreational opportunities, connecting the American public with nature in an unmatched variety of settings and activities.
- National Trails System funding within the National Park Service will receive a funding increase of $2M (12%) to $18.856M to manage and maintain the 23 congressionally designated National Scenic and Historic Trails.
- Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Services, which oversees all trails across wildlife refuge nationwide received $3.6M (4.6%) to $80.859M in additional funding.
- The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program within the Land and Water Conservation fund will receive an additional $15M (13%) to $125M to create new parks, trails, playgrounds, and open spaces in communities across the country and help to address equity in outdoor access.
- The National Digital Trails project at the US Geological Survey will receive $1.35M (consistent year over year) in funding to provide critical information and research for our nation’s trails, including an online TRAILS tool to map potential new routes to increase trail connectivity, a nationwide digital trails database, and a mobile app.
For over 45 years, American Hiking has called on Congress to fund our nation’s trails through annual appropriations. This occurs through events like Hike the Hill®, emails from hikers to their members of Congress, testimony to the key committees that set funding levels, and meetings with congressional offices from organizations across the country. It’s through this work, and your support, that we strive to grow and maintain the federal funding levels of trails.
As soon as the work is done for one year, the work for the next year is already beginning again! After wrapping up 2023 funding, Congress will soon turn to FY24 funding and American Hiking will lead with other trail organizations and individuals like you to advocate for continued funding increases!