To: All BCHA Members,
There are two significant public lands-related funding opportunities currently before the U.S. Senate that would benefits trails and recreational access for everyone. Please read the background on these bills and please weigh in with calls directly to your senators.
Restore Our Parks Act (Senate Bill 500)
S. 500, introduced in mid-February, would bring new funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog throughout the National Park System. The Senate has yet to hold a hearing on the bill. However, last week the House of Representatives held a “mark up” of a similar bill (H.R. 1225), which currently includes all Department of Interior land management agencies in addition to the National Park Service (e.g., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management).
BCHA is working with a broad coalition that seeks to include also the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, and its deferred maintenance backlog, among both bills. But we need your help. During last week’s mark up of H.R. 1225, Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) received the commitment of Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) to work with him on ways to include the Forest Service prior to any floor vote in the House.
Your calls to U.S. senators are needed. Ask them to:
“Please include the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service among agencies that would benefit from S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act.”
If you reside in the states of AK, AZ, CO, HI, ID, LA, MA, MI, MS, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, TN, UT, VT, WA, WV, WY you have at least one senator who sits on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, listed here. Contact information for all senators can be found here.
Arkansas residents: Please call the office of Congressman Bruce Westerman to thank him for wanting to include the U.S. Forest Service in the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (HR 1225). Contact information can be found at the bottom of the Congressman’s home page.
Congress is Shaping Land Agency Budgets for Next Year
In the next few weeks, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations is likely to resume work on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget for federal land management agencies. These agencies include the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The House of Representatives is further along in the development of next year’s budget. Their proposal holds some welcome surprises for public lands, recreation and trails.
Good News for U.S. Forest Service Trails Budget
The House Committee on Appropriations took a novel approach, and asked the Forest Service no longer to assess cost pools (i.e., overhead) on Congress’ approved budget for non-fire agency operations, including facilities, roads and trails. They wanted greater accountability from the agency and asked that the Forest Service create a separate budget line item for cost pools.
For the current Fiscal Year (2019), for example, the Forest Service took 28 percent of the trails budget “off the top” before funds were distributed to regions. For 2020, the House is proposing only 4 percent be taken from the agency’s trails budget. If the Senate adopts the same approach, this would mean that the Forest Service’s overall trails budget could increase by between $5.2 million to $8 million next year.
Calls to members of the Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee are critical at this time. Ask them to:
“Please adopt the House Appropriations Committee’s recommended budget for non-fire U.S. Forest Service operations, including the elimination of cost pools from its trails budget.
If you reside in the states of AK, CA, FL, KY, MD, MO, MS, MT, NM, OR, RI, VT, you have at least one senator who sits on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. Committee members are listed here. Contact information for all senators can be found here.
Please call today. We believe that phone calls from constituents are more effective than either letters or emails at this time. Nonetheless, sending a letter as a follow-up to your call could help to reinforce your message.
Hear Back from Your Senator?
If you receive feedback from your senator(s) or their staff, it would be very helpful if you would share their response with BCHA’s director for Public Lands & Recreation. His email address is: WildernessAdvisor@bcha.org
Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW), is a 501 (c) (3) organization with 32 chapters across the state dedicated to: keeping trails open for all users; educating horse users in Leave-No-Trace practices; and providing volunteer service to resource agencies.