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- AHS Statement: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Markup of LWCF Permanent Funding (S.1081) and Restore Our Parks (S.500) ActsThe Honorable Lisa Murkowski Chairman Committee on Energy & Natural Resources 304 Dirksen Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 The Honorable Joe Manchin Ranking Member Committee on Energy & Natural Resources 304 Dirksen Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 November 15, 2019 Re: Statement in Support of S. 1081, Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, and S. 500, Restore Our Parks Act and S. 1665, Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Dear Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Manchin, and Members of the Committee, On behalf of the American Hiking Society, our members, supporters, and the millions-strong hiking community nationwide, we encourage the committee to support legislation under consideration; S. 1081, Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, and S. 500, Restore Our Parks Act and oppose any weakening amendments. Support S. 500, Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act Earlier this year, Congress overwhelmingly passed a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), ensuring the program will be around for future generations, but that promise does not guarantee it will receive adequate funding each year. Permanent reauthorization has not eliminated threats to LWCF and its many benefits to communities. LWCF funds have been specifically put aside from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties, intended as a reasonable conservation offset for energy development. Yet year after year, on average more than half these funds have been diverted, only to vanish into the general revenue stream with no accountability. S. 500 would provide full, permanent, and dedicated funding for LWCF, realizing the promise that was made to the American people when first authorized nearly half a century ago: to take the proceeds from natural resource development and invest a small portion in conservation and outdoor recreation. The program has funded nearly one thousand trail projects and thousands of other projects ranging from National Parks, Forests and Wildlife Refuges, to community parks and ball fields in all 50 states. Our National Scenic and Historic Trails, which celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2018, have benefited from LWCF funding. LWCF funded the completion of the Appalachian Trail and the building of major segments of the Pacific Crest Trail, and at least ten other scenic and historic trails, over 52 different projects. Permanent and dedicated funding is a must to ensure that our nation's trails, public lands, parks, and open spaces remain protected and accessible for generations to come. Support S. 500, Restore Our Parks Act, inclusive of Forest Service and other public lands S. 500 is a first step to address the $21.5 billion maintenance backlog that exists across all federal lands. The bill creates a fund that would provide $6.5 billion over five years from energy development revenues on federal land and water to address the most pressing deferred maintenance needs within the National Park Service (NPS). However, unlike its companion bill in the House, S. 500 does not include other federally managed public lands, and despite widespread support, neither bill currently includes the U.S. Forest Service’s $5.5 billion backlog (including $300 million for trail maintenance) and its 193 million acres of public lands, which encompass 157,000 miles of trails. We urge the committee, prior to final passage of the legislation, to include the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of a comprehensive solution to address deferred maintenance across all federally managed lands. Additionally, we support the clarifying changes, supported by the sponsors of S.500, that are expected to be offered in the form of a joint staff amendment. Current Deferred Maintenance Trail Backlogs When annual maintenance needs go unaddressed, long-term problems arise, seriously hampering the public’s access to outdoor recreation. Closed trails, out-of-service restrooms, campgrounds in poor conditions, and impassable roads are only a few of the barriers that hikers face. In turn, local economies that rely on trail recreation suffer. As of 2018, 193,138 miles of trails on federal lands have an estimated $886 million maintenance backlog. Agency Miles of Trails Trails Deferred Maintenance Amount USFS 158,726 miles and 7,156 trail bridges $285.8 million (trails and trail bridges) NPS 18,844 miles $462 million (trails) FWS 2,100 miles (13,300 miles (roads, trails, and bridges combined) $52.7 million (trails est. based on % of overall DM $336 million for roads, trails, and bridges). BLM 13, 468 miles (82,000 miles of roads) $86.1 million (trails est. based on % of overall DM $615 million for roads, trails, and bridges). All Agencies (193,138 miles trail specific) $886 million est. Impact on Economic Activity and Recreation Access The economic impact of trails is significant. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, trail-centered activities directly generate over $594 billion and nearly 3.5 million jobs. On federally managed land, outdoor recreation contributes more than $64.6 billion to the national economy and supports more than 623,000 jobs annually. Much of this spending takes place in small communities along each of the trails, communities for which this income is substantial, meaningful, and will remain local. Many of the jobs that trails create cannot be exported offshore: guides and outfitters, hotel staff and restauranteurs, and numerous others directly benefit the community in which they reside. Open and well-maintained trails are essential for this continued economic benefit. The maintenance and expansion of our nation’s trails is largely supported by trail organizations and citizen volunteers who leverage government resources to maintain and expand our trails. On the National Trails System alone, since 1995, hundreds of thousands of citizen volunteers have contributed more than 19 million hours to build and maintain National Scenic and Historic Trails, and nonprofit trail organizations have contributed more than $200 million toward trail stewardship projects, a total value of $577.4 million. Trails are more than just an economic engine. Since our nation’s founding, the outdoors has been a distinctive part of our American experience, and trails are integral to that experience. Whether it’s a family out for a hike on a nearby trail, a returning veteran walking off the war, or hunters and anglers accessing their sites, Americans continue to seek places for outdoor recreation, a connection to nature, and healthy exercise. By addressing long overdue improvements to trails, creating and completing trails, and increasing access through expanded guided recreation, Congress can ensure that outdoor recreation remains open and accessible. The post AHS Statement: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Markup of LWCF Permanent Funding (S.1081) and Restore Our Parks (S.500) Acts appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- 2020 Volunteer VacationsFill out my online form. The post 2020 Volunteer Vacations appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- How to Treat a Sprained Ankle on a HikeThere you are, just hiking along the trail when suddenly the footing changes and you roll your ankle to one side. You feel it stretch and maybe even feel it tear. It stops you cold and it hurts. You’re pretty sure you have a sprained ankle, and you’re miles from the trailhead. Before You Hit… The post How to Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Hike appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- Why Kids Should Hike“Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.” National Wildlife Federation The seasons are turning, and children are knee deep in academics again. The natural world of summer seemed to disappear like campfire smoke; replaced by the… The post Why Kids Should Hike appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- 2020 Alternative Break ScholarshipFill out my online form. The post 2020 Alternative Break Scholarship appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- Keep Our Public Lands Free From Corporate Hands Statement of PrinciplesWe oppose the opening of protected or previously protected federal public lands and waters to development. The post Keep Our Public Lands Free From Corporate Hands Statement of Principles appeared first on American Hiking Society.
- New Coalition to Protect Public Lands from Administration’s Giveaways to IndustryAfter 150 million acres lose protections, more than a dozen groups join forces to pressure companies that conduct or fund extraction to stay out of previously protected areas The post New Coalition to Protect Public Lands from Administration’s Giveaways to Industry appeared first on American Hiking Society.