Stimulating the Economy by Repairing Trails
For decades now, WTA has been beating the drum for increased Forest Service recreation appropriations. The route has been circuitous and challenging, but with Members of Congress taking notice of the enormous cultural and economic value of outdoor recreation, we're starting to break into the open.
As most who read this blog--or Washington Trails--know, the Interior Appropriatons Committee approved significant increases for National Forest Recreation programs earlier this year. Due to ongoing disputes between the Bush administration and Congress, the Fiscal Year 2009 budget has yet to see the light of day. We expect to see a budget bill move forward very early in the next Congress, since the money committees will want to start working on the FY 10 budget soon afterward. We're hoping to see the House and Senate retain the very encouraging increases we saw in the Interior Appropriations markup.
One real opportunity coming up, though, is the economic stimulus package being developed in the House. This legislation will center around funding infrastructure projects that, ideally, create jobs and free up capital. This fall's proposed stimulus package, which failed to move, included a 10-year, $2 billion National Parks Centennial Challenge item, which would have provided up to $100 million per year for Parks to challenge local contributions of labor and funds. Matched projects would be given preference, but unmatched projects could still be funded.
Finally, a dear colleague letter has circulated in the House that ties economic stimulus to restoration of Forest Service roads and National Park roads and trails. We're pleased to see the level of interest that these important projects are receiving, and we'll work to extend stimulus efforts to include National Forest Trails. One very encouraging aspect of the dear colleague letter is the call for a new CCC program--a project that could create 3,500 new jobs bent on restoring watersheds and trail opportunities.
Fortunately, we have many champions in Washington State. Our entire Congressional delegation has been very supportive of increasing Forest Service Recreation funds. Please take a moment to call your US Representative and Senators Murray and Cantwell. Let them know you appreciate their hard work and want them to follow through as they debate the budget and stimulus packages. You can find them here.