Trail Funding Saved
$82 million for trails every year. Of that, $1.8 million goes to Washington state—and some even funds WTA’s volunteer program. That’s the National Recreation Trails Program, a component of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
The Recreation Trails Program was on the chopping block this week as a result of Senators Coburn (R-OK) and McCain (R-AZ), who teamed up to present two amendments to the 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill (H.R.3288) that would strike funding for the trails program. Senator Coburn initially led the charge on legislation to allow concealed weapons in national parks. That legislation passed earlier this year. He was also at the center of a long Senate holdup of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act.
Thankfully, the Senate voted both of these amendments down this morning, and the transportation budget can now continue unhindered. The Senate voted 59-39 to turn back the amendments, with Senator Byrd not voting and, of course, no vote from Senator Kennedy’s as-yet-unfilled seat. One interesting point to note—former Idaho Senator Steve Symms was the father of the National Recreation Trails Program. Both of Idaho’s Senators voted in support of the Coburn-McCain amendments.
Grants from the National Recreation Trails Program account for one-third of WTA’s trail maintenance budget. WTA currently has two applications pending for a combined $150,000 in funding for 2010. We’re delighted that the legislation is moving forward without the McCain and Coburn amendments. Since this is only an extension of the transportation account, Congress will have to act on a six year reauthorization in 2010. By voting down these amendments, the Senate has made NRTP and other important programs more secure in the reauthorization process.
Thanks to Washington’s own Senators Murray and Cantwell for voting to keep National Recreation Trails Program and other important recreation programs in the transportation bill.