WTA in the Other Washington
WTA Executive Director was in Washington, DC last week, meeting Washington's congressional delegation.
Last week I spent three whirlwind days in Washington, DC, with WTA board member Jeff Chapman. Our docket was packed: meetings with Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as eight of our state's nine representatives.
Our two top priorities were the Recreation Trails Program (RTP), which is part of the transportation package, and the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service trail funding, which is part of the Interior Appropriations bill. Depending upon our audience - and the time we had - we also spoke about forest planning, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Secure Rural Schools and other local issues.
This was my first lobby visit to Washington, DC, and it was fascinating to see first-hand how the legislative process works. We met with staff of each of the representatives and both senators. Some of the meetings were held in large conference rooms, others in dark-paneled offices, and a few while standing in the marbled hallways surrounded by dozens of other Washingtonians.We were able to meet with both of the Washington senators during meet-and-greet coffees.
During each meeting we emphasized the importance of RTP to trails. Because it is such a small line item in an enormous transportation budget, most legislators were receptive. But all of them were considerably less optimistic that the overall transportation bill would be able to pass by the March 31 deadline.
In addition to Washington's congressional delegation, Jeff and I also met with three top U.S. Forest Service trails officials, as well as our national hiking non-profit partners, the American Hiking Society and Outdoor Alliance. The discussion with the Forest Service was particularly enriching. We spoke for two hours about forest planning, standardizing the crosscut saw certificate process, Wild and Scenic Rivers, youth in the outdoors and much more.
My favorite moment of the trip was meeting with Senator Cantwell and seeing her eyes light up as she described her climb of the Grand Teton with a WTA member last summer. It was great to get a chance to connect on personal level about the importance of trails and WTA.
Thirteen meetings in three days left me exhausted but energized. And although I feel more comfortable walking the trails of the Cascades, this trip was a reminder that walking the halls of the Capitol is equally important.