WTA's DC Lobby Trip
Taking the metro. Cruising through the underground warren of tunnels beneath the House and Senate office buildings. Rubbing elbows with people wearing very nice suits. These are just a few of the pleasures of WTA's annual Washington, DC visit. Heading back to the nation's Capitol has become a rite of spring as predictable as the blossoming dogwoods and daffodils in Olympia.
Just a few years ago, I wouldn't have predicted that we'd see an Interior Appropriations bill signed by the President that would increase the covered agencies budgets by 17%. That happened just last year. Combined with $650 million directed to National Forests in the stimulus bill, those funds mean that more money will be flowing to recreation programs at the federal level than we've seen in a long time. If you've written or called your representative or our senators, thank you. Your contribution has helped WTA become a serious and well-regarded advocate for trails and recreation.
This year's visit, scheduled for the first week of March, should be very interesting and challenging. While we may see as much as $270 million flow into federal and state public lands through a second stimulus bill being considered by Congress, there are some less-than-cheery signs on the horizon as well:
In order to deal with the mounting federal deficit, the President is urging a three-year spending freeze on all discretionary (non-defense, non-entitlement) programs. Discretionary programs equal roughly 8% of the federal budget, and while the entire discretionary category will be frozen in the President's budget, individual line items may fluctuate up or down. We'll be advocating for some incremental increases in Recreation and Trails programs.
The Transportation Funding bill, which includes the National Recreation Trails Program (NRTP), has been extended through the end of February. If the second stimulus passes, funding could be reauthorized until September, giving Congress the opportunity to draft a six-year extension. WTA depends on NRTP grants to fund a big chunk of our trail maintenance program. Without those dollars, land managers and non-profits would have to radically curtail their programs. We'll be working with our delegation, particularly Senator Murray, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, to get a six-year reauthorization.
You can help by taking a moment to contact our Senators and your Representative. Let them know you appreciate their hard work for hiking trails, and urge them to push forward in the upcoming budget cycle. Tell them how important these close-in, high-quality recreation opportunities are to you, particularly in lean economic times. You can find your Member of Congress and our Senators here.
Thank you for everything you do to support WTA and hiking trails across the state!