Hike the Hill: WTA Staff Advocate for Trails, Funding and Equity in D.C.
WTA staff traveled to Washington, D.C. alongside partners to meet with the congressional leaders and leaders of federal land management agencies. We talk about our vision of creating trails for everyone and discussed how to better maintain trails and recreation infrastructure in Washington.
Part of what makes Washington such an incredible place to be a hiker is that we have so many public lands and trails. More than a quarter of the land in Washington is managed by the federal government. Many of the most popular places to hike in the state are located on the millions of acres of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies. Which is why, last week, WTA’s new CEO, Jaime Loucky, as well Michael DeCramer, WTA’s policy and planning manager, traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with the leaders of federal land management agencies. We talked about WTA’s vision of trails existing for everyone and discussed how to better maintain the recreational facilities in Washington.
Our trip was part of an annual event known as Hike the Hill, organized by our partners, American Hiking Society and the Partnership for the National Trail System. We participated in meetings with our friends from Backcountry Horsemen of America, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Pacific Northwest Trail Association and the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance among others. While in the capital, we visited with our state’s congressional delegation and talked with their offices about the importance of trails and outdoor recreation.
We thanked legislators for providing funding to public lands agencies and addressing some of the long term challenges facing our federally owned lands. In 2022, Congress passed several important laws that will have significant positive effects on the public lands in Washington and around the country:
- The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden in August, includes major funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provides nearly $1 billion for climate resilience in our national parks.
- The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs around $3 billion to the U.S. Forest Service to manage the risks of wildland fires by reducing hazardous fuels in places like the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
- At the end of December, Congress authorized funding for our federal land agencies in 2023 by passing a bipartisan spending bill. That law increased funding to the National Park Service by 6.4%, which will help our partners, in places like Mount Rainier National Park, better keep up with inflation and the associated rising costs of operating their parks.
Reliable funding to maintain trails and recreation infrastructure ultimately saves the public money. Preventive maintenance is cheaper and more effective than coming back to repair trails, roads or other facilities after they’ve been neglected. Restoring degraded trails with significant deferred maintenance requires more complicated projects than doing regular annual work.
While in Washington D.C., WTA staff reminded Washington’s congressional offices that consistent funding allows our federal partners to better care for the landscapes loved by millions of people in our state. When Congress passes regular spending bills, land managers can prioritize work and tackle complicated natural resource projects, including multiyear trail maintenance projects in remote areas.
We also emphasized that access to outdoor recreation is not equally shared across communities and expressed WTA’s support for bills designed to provide greater equity, including:
- Outdoors for All Act: The Outdoors for All Act establishes the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership in law and would guarantee funding for it. The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership is a program to establish parks or renovate existing recreation facilities, particularly in communities that lack access to parks and greenspace.
- Transit To Trails Act: Establishes a grant program under the federal Department of Transportation to provide transit systems to and from underserved communities (urban and rural) to public lands, specifically trails.
One of the best parts of meeting with leaders in Washington D.C. is explaining the vital contributions made by the WTA community to maintaining trails. In 2022, WTA projects accomplished over 152,700 hours of trail work. The value of donated labor on the more than 1,400 work parties hosted by WTA last year was over $4.4 million. We shared with Washington’s congressional offices that WTA supports trails in every congressional district each year. We do a lot for trails, but we can't do it alone. We expressed to our elected officials and federal agency leaders how important it is to have support for public lands to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of nature.
wafflesnfalafel on Hike the Hill: WTA Staff Advocate for Trails, Funding and Equity in D.C.
wafflesnfalafel on Feb 22, 2023 09:44 PM