Call your US senators today and urge them to support Sen. Klobuchar's amended to restore RTP to MAP-21. Photo by Jonathon Coleman (flickr).
The Recreation Trails Program (RTP) - the grant program in the federal transportation funding bill that provides essential support for trail maintenance all over Washington state - is in jeopardy and we need your help to preserve it.
The re-authorization of the Surface Transportation Funding Bill has been delayed for nearly three years now, but pressure is building to re-authorize it this spring. Despite the fact that RTP is a tiny line item, the program only appears in the House version. If the Senate bill becomes law, WTA and hikers will feel the pain. For 2012, WTA was awarded $175,000 in grants to fund our Volunteer Vacations, Backcountry Response Teams and Youth Program. Without RTP dollars, WTA would have to seriously curtail its trail maintenance work.
RTP expires on March 31, and can be reauthorized by either a continuing resolution or a new surface transportation funding bill. The House and Senate have competing proposals:
- House: HR 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, contains RTP funded at $85 million annually for its four year authorization.
- Senate: S 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or MAP-21) does not contain RTP, but Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is offering an amendment that would restore RTP to MAP-21.
Here's how you can help.
Washington Trails Association is going to Washington, DC from February 26-29, and your calls to Senators Murray and Cantwell will really help strengthen our message. Let them know that you support Senator Klobuchar's amendment that restores RTP to MAP-21.
Please remember to thank them for all their hard work on behalf of hikers. You can reach Senator Murray at (202) 224-2621 and Senator Cantwell at (202) 224-3441.
Thank you for helping us preserve RTP!
Washington DNR has kicked off a planning process to address recreation lands in the Snoqualmie Corridor, including Mount Si. Photo by Hikergurl.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has kicked off its recreation planning process for the. The process is intended to culminate in a plan to manage DNR recreation, conservation and trust lands in one of the most heavily-used landscapes in state.
The Snoqualmie Corridor planning area encompasses Tiger Mountain State Forest, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA), Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area, the Middle Fork NRCA and the Raging River State Forest. This is a huge landscape threaded with trails, and the process will take some time. But the potential payoff for hikers of being engaged from the beginning will be equally as large.
A February open house run by DNR held presented a bird's-eye view of the many places that DNR manages in the corridor. The one point that became immediately clear is that DNR is bound by any number of agreements, land designations and historical uses within the planning area. Those obligations make it impossible for the agency to accommodate certain kinds of recreation in the corridor - for instance, motorized uses. But some types of fast-growing recreation might find new opportunities. For instance, the Raging River State Forest potentially has room for new mountain-bike opportunities, as well as increased equestrian activity.
It's too early to tell what is specifically going to happen here. It's possible that we will see some new trail connections develop between popular areas. For instance, connecting the Snoqualmie Ridge Community to the forest via trails, adding trail connections on the west side of Mount Si, and connecting Grand Ridge with Duthie Hill and East Tiger are all potentially on the table.
Much of the decision-making around this process will be informed by a Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Planning Committee, a 12-member group for which DNR is taking applications through February 15. We encourage hikers to apply. Getting involved on a committee like this one can be very rewarding. And if you're interested in commenting or being kept in the loop on what DNR is doing in the corridor, sign up here to receive updates.
Hello from Hiker Lobby Day 2012!
About 50 intrepid hikers have assembled in the conference room of St. John's Church for our Hiker Lobby Day orientation and training. After this, we will hike to the State Capitol for our scheduled meetings with elected officials and get down to the heart of the day -- face to face lobbying!
This is my fifth Hiker Lobby Day, and as I sit here surrounded by WTA members, volunteers and others who have taken the day off work to come advocate on behalf of trails, I feel deeply appreciative of their efforts. One year ago, these hiker lobbyists were instrumental is securing passage of the Washington State Discover Pass, without which many of our DNR recreation lands and State Parks would have locked their gates. Although the Discover Pass is not performing as well as expected and State Parks regrettably just passed pink slips to dozens of park rangers, the passage of this sustainable funding source was critical. Without it, we might have NO rangers on the state parks payroll. We might not have access to Deception Pass State Park, or Mount Si.
This year, hikers are here to make the Discover Pass a better program. Two companion bills -- SB 5977 and HB 2153 -- will add space for an additional vehicle license plate number to the Discover Pass. It is widely hoped that this improvement will result in higher sales of the pass, and therefore more revenue for these cash-strapped agencies.
Did you know that maintenance on many of your favorite trails is funded by a little known grant program in the federal transportation funding bill? The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) provides essential support for trail maintenance all over Washington state. If RTP is not reauthorized or extended by the end of March 2012, those funds will go away and likely never return.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is housed in the Transportation budget. The Federal Department of Transportation sends RTP money to the states, who then disburse funds to non-profits and land management agencies as grants. WTA has a long history of receiving RTP grants, and we use these dollars to do trail work. This year, we applied for and were awarded $175,000 in grants to fund our Volunteer Vacations, Backcountry Response Teams and Youth Program. Without RTP dollars, WTA would have to seriously curtail its trail maintenance work.
The re-authorization of the Surface Transportation Funding Bill has been delayed for nearly three years now. In order to keep our infrastructure working, transportation funds have been reauthorized for brief periods. The last was in September and runs out at the end of March. WTA's grants have been funded for the next year, but if RTP is not reauthorized or extended by the end of March, a huge amount of work that WTA would lead in 2013 is going to be in jeopardy.
But there is good news. The House Transportation Committee is releasing their version of the Surface Transportation Funding Bill, called the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, or H.R. 7. The bill would extend RTP for four years, funding the program at $85 million per year, which is consistent with the last several fiscal years. That's great news, and we applaud the House effort.
Of course, there is also bad news. The Senate version of the bill does not include RTP funding, instead giving states the option of dedicating a portion of their transportation funds to enhancements programs like RTP. That lack of certainty makes it very difficult for us and our non-profit and agency partners to plan effectively.
What can you do? Call Senators Murray and Cantwell. Thank them for their support of RTP over the years and ask them to fight for a four-year fully funded reauthorization of the RTP in the Senate's Surface Transportation Funding Bill. Senator Murray's number in DC is (202) 224-2621 and Senator Cantwell's number is (202) 224-3441. Be sure to speak from your own experience as a hiker who benefits from the critically important recreation funds. Thank you!
SB 5977, which adds space for a second license plate to the Discover Pass, passed the Senate by a whopping margin on Friday. Forty-four State Senators voted yes, none voted no, and five were excused.
The Discover Pass was originally enacted during the 2011 legislative session. It is a $30 annual vehicle pass ($10 per day) for recreation on Washington State Parks, DNR and Fish and Wildlife lands, and it is a critical funding mechanism to keep these areas open to the public.
Washington Trails Association strongly supports this legislation. Over the course of the past year, transferability between vehicles is something we have heard our members want. Passing the Senate is a major hurdle, and we're excited to see this legislation move forward in the House. SB 5977 will be referred to the House, where it will be heard in policy and fiscal committees in coming weeks.
If you've written a letter, made a phone call or visited your legislators, pat yourself on the back! Thanks for all your hard work, and we'll keep you posted right here on the Signpost Blog as this bill moves forward.
In the week between Christmas and New Year's, 83 Washington State Parks rangers were handed pink slips in the first wave of layoffs spurred by agency revenue shortfalls. The ranger force, before layoffs, numbered 189. That's a dramatic cut, and one that is going to significantly impact the lives of many of our State's most dedicated land management staff. At WTA, we work with line staff on state and federal lands daily. Their commitment to service and love of the landscape shines through everything they do.
But beyond the personal hardship caused by these layoffs lies another challenge: maintaining and patrolling State Parks in the absence of full-time rangers.
Many of the rangers laid off were offered their jobs back at very significant pay cuts, or offered the option to work seasonally, defined as five months per year. The season of work will be in spring and summer months, meaning that many parks will be entirely unstaffed during the winter.
Alexander Moularas, a ranger at Larrabee State Park, was one of those who received a layoff notice. He told me that "rangers have traditionally used the off-season fall and winter months to focus on upkeep, preparing for next round of heavy visitation. The term 'off-season' is a bit misleading as people continue to use the resource at this time of year, and incidents still occur with regularity." Moularas continued, "Sadly, after restructuring is complete, many parks and their visitors will be left to fend for themselves for half the year."
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Washington State Parks. Each day, rangers preserve this century-old legacy through their care and commitment. The state needs to find a way to keep this legion of rangers on the ground year-round to sustain and maintain these parks.
Don't mail it in! Come in person to provide your thoughts about DNR land along the I-90 corridor on January 18th. Photo of Mailbox Peak by johnwporter.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is launching a planning process that will culminate in a plan to manage DNR recreation, conservation and trust lands. This is a great opportunity to get involved the long-term outlook for some of our most prized hiking lands!
We'll need hikers at Lobby Day on February 1 advocating to make the Discover Pass transferable. Photo by Susan Saul.
The Washington State legislature adjourned its special session during the hearing that was taking up vehicle transferability for the Discover Pass. We expect that this bill will move in 2012.
Little Greider Lake is accessed through DNR land, and a Discover Pass is required at the trailhead. Soon, we hope, Discover Passes will be transferable between two vehicles. Photo by "terpene."
Senator Kevin Ranker has introduced a bill that would allow each purchaser of a Discover Pass to use it on two vehicles, effective immediately. The legislation applies to current pass holders as well as future ones.
Reduced staffing at state parks will result in a seasonal reduction in hours and seasonal closures at state parks. This year, Federation Forest State Park is closed during the winter. Photo by Alan Bauer.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted yesterday on a budget proposal that would result in the loss of 161 jobs at the agency. WTA explores what that would mean for hikers.
Larrabee State Park, where WTA trail crews do year-round maintenance, depends on Discover Pass revenue. Photo by Mike.
Agencies that manage the state Discover Pass are very likely to deliver a transferable pass in 2012. There are several forms this could take, which will depend on administrative challenges and revenue impacts inherent in each proposal..
The Mount Dickerman trail travels through the Boulder River Roadless Area, a designation upheld by a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Friday. Photo by Bruce..
The Roadless Area Conservation Policy, a Clinton-era rule that set 58.5 million acres nationwide (more than 2 million in Washington) aside from road-building, was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
Hurray! RTP - an important source of funding for WTA's trail work program - has been extended through March 2012. Photo by Megan McKenzie.
Congress has extended the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) through March 2012. RTP provides funds to states for the development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities and is a major source of WTA's trail work funding.
Attend an open house at the Darrington Ranger District on September 15th to discuss your thoughts about repairing the Suiattle River Road. Photo by Susan Elderkin.
The Forest Service is looking for public input about rebuilding the Suiattle River Road at an open house on the Darrington Ranger Station on Thursday, September 15.
WTA Advisory Board Member, Susan Saul and Regional Coordinator, Ryan Ojerio join with other trail users groups in meeting with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
WTA and other user groups met last week with Representative Jaime Herrera Buetler (3rd district) to discuss trails funding.
Grasshopper Pass and Tatie Peak - part of the Liberty Bell Roadless Area - were left out of wilderness recommendations in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Proposed Action for the upcoming Forest Plan. Photo by Bob and Barb Griffith.
On Saturday, August 13, 70 people turned out in Seattle to gather information about the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests' efforts to rewrite their forest plans. WTA Advocacy Director learned some interesting things about how the agency plans to address wilderness and the backlog of trail maintenance projects.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests are holding a public meeting at the Seattle Mountaineers this Saturday, August 13, from 10:00 am-12:00 pm. The event will be followed by a community cookout, sponsored by The Mountaineers, The Sierra Club, WTA, Conservation Northwest and Washington Wilderness Coalition.
Grasshopper Pass and Tatie Peak - part of the Liberty Bell Roadless Area - were left out of wilderness recommendations in the Okanogan-Wenatchee-Colville National Forests' wilderness proposals. Photo by Bob and Barb.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee-Colville National Forests have recently released a Proposed Action - the first step in establishing a new Forest Plan that will govern activities for the next 15 years. This is the best time for hikers to be involved in the process.
Scorpion Mountain and Johnson Ridge is one of the few hikes that is almost entirely within the Wild Sky Wilderness. Photo by Big Pants Trekkers.
The newly-minted Wild Sky Wilderness has a trails plan for new hiking trails. It's open for public comment until October 1, 2011.
It's time to buy another pass for your glove compartment. Starting July 1, the Discover Pass will be required at all state parks, recreation areas and wildlife lands.
It's time to buy another pass for your glove compartment. Starting July 1, the Discover Pass will be required at all state parks, recreation areas and wildlife lands