WTA Visits The Other Washington
Four members of Washington Trails Association's board and staff visited Washington, DC last week and met with both U.S. Senators, seven members of Washington's Congressional delegation and key staff from the remaining three Congressional districts about recreation funding issues.
Last week, WTA Executive Director Karen Daubert and board members Amy Csink and Jeff Chapman and I traveled to Washington, DC. Over three days, we met with both of our U.S. Senators, seven members of Washington's Congressional delegation, and key staff from the three remaining Congressional districts. We had an excellent reception at all the offices we visited and raised issues critical to the Washington's hikers. And while news is mixed out of DC, many members are hopeful that we can avoid the massive across-the-board cuts that all agencies will feel if Congress and the Administration do not cut a fiscal deal by March 1 that avoids sequestration.
Washington Trails Association's lead issues were fiscal in nature:
- Forest Service Appropriations: The last fiscal year saw a decline in a critical element of the Forest Service budget -- the Capital Maintenance of Trails (CMTL) program -- which is key to the continued development of new trails, maintenance of existing facilities and completion of backlog maintenance. We asked our delegation to support $560 million for that program, a slight increase over FY 2011 appropriations. Members supported that allocation, and we saw some movement in the direction of fighting for that amount.
- Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) Reauthorization: The legislation that authorizes the Forest Service to charge user fees such as the Northwest Forest Pass expires in December 2014. While fees are not the solution to Forest Service budget woes, they are an important element of paying for recreation on our public lands. We urged our delegation to support reauthorization and to work together to introduce more flexibility into the program, supporting measures that will ensure that the Forest Service can spend more money on actual trail maintenance. There is broad agreement within the Forest Service and the recreation community on the sorts of changes that need to be made to FLREA.