Stuck inside? Write an e-mail for trails.
The April 2007 issue of Washington Trails should be hitting the mailboxes any day now (if you're not already receiving it, consider becoming a WTA member today). In that issue, WTA Outreach Coordinator Kindra Ramos presents some advice for writing to your Congressional representatives in support of trails. She advises being passionate and honest in your e-mail. Personalize your letter, including details of the places you hike, and the threats that lack of funding present to those places. And be specific...ask your representative to take specific action, such as finding $70 million for storm damage repair in the Interior Appropriations budget for FY08, including repairs to National Parks and National Forests in Washington.
When writing to members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, it's important to use e-mail or fax only. After 9-11 and the anthrax scares, hand-written letters have to go through a rigorous security screening that includes irradiation. Mail to Congress takes a long time, and often the letters arrive brittle and unreadable. For federal officials, e-mail is the way to go. E-mail your representative here. E-mail senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as well.
Below is a sample letter included in the April issue of Washington Trails. A version of the letter in Microsoft Word can be found here. This letter should be a starting point only. Personalize it. Make it your own. And do it now. It only takes a few minutes. Your fellow hikers will thank you.
The Honorable <name>
<room number and building name>
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman <last name>,
I am writing today out of strong concern for the future of outdoor recreation and wildland preservation in Washington state. As a member of your district and an avid hiker, I want to draw your attention to the devastation caused by the rain and windstorms of late 2006. These storms wreaked havoc on roads and trails in the national forests throughout the state. Little attention has been paid to the increased maintenance needs of these important landscapes during the crafting of the FY 08 budget for the Forest Service.
Every summer my family spends a week in the Olympic National Forest. This is our chance to reconnect with each other and the natural wonders of Washington. My family has been making these trips for 10 years. In this time we have seen firsthand the results of cutting the Forest Service budget; staffing has decreased, as has the general maintenance of the facilities and trails throughout the Olympics.
Now I have learned that the President's proposed budget would again cut the Forest Service budget, and do nothing to address the immense storm damage on forest lands. I urge you to consider the thousands of families who visit national forests in Washington each year. Continuing to ignore and neglect some of the best recreational lands in the state is bad for hikers, families and tourism. Cutting these already insufficient sums is unconscionable and shows a deep lack of regard for the critical recreation role that Forest Service lands fill, particularly here in Washington. National forests in the state are still digging out from the October 2003 rainstorms, and have seen extensive damage from the November 2006 storms. Lurking in the background is a maintenance backlog on national forests that reaches into the tens of millions of dollars. I urge you to restore and increase funding for National Forest Service Recreation and Trails programs and appropriate adequate funds to repair the storm damage.
Washington state has many amazing outdoor recreational opportunities to offer its residents. I hope you will use your position in Congress to protect and restore the national parks and national forests in our state by increasing their operating budgets and appropriating the funds necessary to repair the damage from the 2003 and 2006 storms. I look forward to your response.
Photo of washout on Suiattle River Road by Kim Brown.