Year-round, AHS leads the trails community in coming together to call on Congress to fund our nation’s trails through annual appropriations. The timely and adequate funding of the government is essential in ensuring public lands and trails have the resources required to provide the recreation, health and wellness, economic, and multitude of other benefits that these places provide. Thankfully, we finally have a year-long funding bill that has become law!
If everything goes according to schedule, Congress should pass, and the president sign into law, annual funding bills before the end of the fiscal year (FY) on September 30. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t always happen and the trend lately is for temporary funding to be passed until/if an annual funding bill can be agreed to. This is what we’ve seen for the last few years, and again for FY22. When this happens the federal land managers that oversee trails and public lands are limited in their ability to adequately manage and maintain these resources, which impacts all of us and can be seen through reduced staffing, the inability to plan long term trail maintenance projects, partner with the non-profit volunteer organizations that manage and maintain trails, and other activities that impact the user experience.
For over 45 years, American Hiking has called on Congress to fund our nation’s trails through annual appropriations. This occurs through events like Hike the Hill®, emails from hikers to their members of Congress, testimony to the key committees that set funding levels, and meetings with congressional offices from organizations across the country. It’s through this work, and your support, that we strive to grow and maintain the federal funding levels of trails.
Now that you know how we got here, we highlight below some of the funding that will benefit the trails community and public lands generally.
- Forest Service Trails Maintenance (to address annual maintenance needs) received an increase of $1M+. Collectively, the National Forests provide 159,000 miles of trails for activities ranging from hiking, biking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle usage, groomed winter trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and access points for “river trails.” This trail system is increasingly popular and annual maintenance cannot keep pace with the growing demand due to stagnant and inadequate funding. Annual funding increases will help to address these needs for all users.
- Recreation, Heritage, & Wilderness programs funding in the Forest Service increased by $2.7M. National Forests and Grasslands provide a great diversity of outdoor recreational opportunities, connecting the American public with nature in an unmatched variety of settings and activities.
- Congress directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to consider the creation of a dedicated account for funding trails. Currently, there isn’t a dedicated single source of funding for BLM trails and funding is pulled (often inconsistently year to year) to fund construction, maintenance, and management of trails. AHS, and the trails community have been advocating for this change for a few years and this will be a crucial tool as we continue to engage with BLM to make this change.
- National Trails System funding within the National Park Service will receive a funding increase of $1.6M+ to manage and maintain the 23 congressionally designated National Scenic and Historic Trails.
- Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Services, which oversees all trails across wildlife refuge nationwide received $2.2M+ in additional funding.
- The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program within the Land and Water Conservation fund will receive $110M to create new parks, trails, playgrounds, and open spaces in communities across the country and help to address equity in outdoor access.
- The National Digital Trails project at the US Geological Survey will receive $850K in funding to provide critical information and research for our nation’s trails, including an online TRAILS tool to map potential new routes to increase trail connectivity, a nationwide digital trails database, and a mobile app.
As soon as the work is done for one year, the work for the next year is already beginning again! After wrapping up 2022 funding, the House of Representatives turned its attention to 2023. AHS submitted testimony on behalf of a diverse group of trail users to encourage the continued growth in funding for trails.
You can add your voice by sending an email to your Members of Congress asking them to support robust funding for trails in the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations!
Want to do even more?
Submit the Trails Community’s FY23 Recommendations on your Member of Congress’ Website.
Background: House and Senate Offices provide their constituents (you or your trail organization) the opportunity to submit funding requests to include in their office’s recommendations provided to the appropriations committee. These requests help to shape what is included in the bill.
- Go to your Representative or Senators website (google or use Congress.gov to find website)
- On the member’s website, look for the Appropriations Request Form, which can usually be found at the top of the page in the dropdown menu (look for “Services”, “Helping You”, or constituent related tabs)
- If you can’t find the form, you can contact the office.
- Use this FY23 Trail Appropriations Funding Request Format, which should be in a similar format to the information being requested.
- If you are unsure of a request, leave it blank.