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Help Shape the Future of Our Trails

Posted by Kindra at Jun 25, 2010 01:40 PM |

The Department of Interior is holding a series of listening sessions across the country. Seattle's listening session will be held on July 1 from 6:30 pm-9:00 pm at Franklin High School in Seattle.

On July 1st, you will have the opportunity to tell top policymakers how importantseal of president hiking and wildlands are to you!

In April, President Obama instituted the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, to involve the country in a conversation focused on setting a long-term conservation and recreation agenda. This initiative has the potential to make an enormous impact on the way our wildlands are managed. As part of this process, the Department of Interior is holding a series of listening sessions across the country.

Seattle's listening session will be held on July 1 from 6:30 pm-9:00 pm at Franklin High School in Seattle.  

What is a listening session?

This is a rare opportunity to provide input on management of our natural landscapes directly to high-ranking agency officials and members of Congress. Your thoughts on recreation and conservation will be taken into consideration (as part of the official record) and help shape a new federal initiative to encourage Americans to get out and enjoy the outdoors. While the exact structure of the event may change, at an earlier listening session the people were broken off into smaller groups and asked to discuss a series of questions.

Below are the questions used at that event, along with how WTA would respond to them. I would encourage you to use these questions as a framework to prepare your thoughts for the event.

What strategies for conservation, recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors do you think have been effective?

WTA believes that volunteer trail maintenance is one of the most effective ways to achieve the President’s goal of connecting Americans with their great outdoors. Through our volunteers, we maintain the public outdoor infrastructure and leverage federal dollars five times over. Volunteers, of all ages, forge a deep connection with the trails and landscape. More federal dollars for public land agencies and their nonprofit partners, like WTA, is critical to address the backlog of projects on federal land and increase the number of Americans who cherish their public lands. 

What obstacles do you see to conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors? 

Outdoor recreation is shrinking among American families and public lands face a backlog of trail maintenance projects. However, outdoor recreation remains a critical economic driver in the Northwest. WTA's research, compiled in 2007, found that non-motorized recreation generates $11.7 billion annually to Washington state’s economy and supports 115,000 jobs. Yet this economic engine and national connection to the great outdoors is clearly threatened. The trail maintenance backlog on National Forest lands alone has mounted into the tens of millions of dollars.

How can the federal government be a more effective partner in helping to achieve conservation, recreation or reconnecting people to the outdoors?

WTA is a volunteer powerhouse; our volunteers will put in nearly 100,000 hours on 130 trails on public lands this year. But volunteers can’t shoulder the burden alone. We have critical partners in the Forest Service, National Park Service and BLM and can’t do our work without them being properly staffed. The staff on each public land district is necessary to prioritize maintenance projects and coordinate trail work events. In the absence of challenge cost share dollars, federal trail grants and support for federal land agencies, our program and those of partner organizations will no longer be able to engage Americans and assist our public lands.

What additional tools and resources would help conservation and recreation efforts be more successful? 

WTA encourages the infusion of new federal dollars for public land infrastructure, including support for nonprofit volunteer driven organizations like WTA who are able to leverage federal dollars in trail and community impact. Our nation needs to correct long term problems on hiking trails, such as failing bridges, slumping tread and storm damage. WTA and our partners rely on federal appropriations and grants such as the National Recreation Trails Program to make our work possible. We also encourage the federal government not to neglect critical existing agency funding support in favor of new dedicated funds. Public lands need sustainable, predictable, diverse streams of funding.

What you can do.

I know there are lots of easy jokes that can be made about the federal government and listening sessions, but from what we can tell they are taking this process pretty seriously. So WTA is taking it seriously too, and hopes you will as well.

  • Let WTA know you are planning to attend by emailing me at kindra@wta.org and I will provide you with more details about how you can join other WTA supporters at this event.
  • If you can't make it, please submit comments online.

See you there!

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