We have been tracking the progress of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal in the U.S. Senate. This is a $1.5 trillion dollar spending package that impacts a wide range of issues. There are two amendments to this bill that our members and supporters need to be watching.
We ask that you support an amendment to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal to increase the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funding by the same percentage increase that the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is increased each year.
A long-delayed report from the Federal Highway Administration was just released analyzing the amount of federal gas taxes paid by non-highway recreational activity confirms that the total is nearly $300 million annually. This is more than three times the current funding of the Recreational Trails Program. We believe this new information should inform funding levels for RTP in the infrastructure bill currently being considered by the Senate.
Many of our members are other organizations who regularly apply for RTP grant projects to maintain OHV trails. These projects almost always include extensive volunteer efforts from our members and allies. This work contributes to the goodwill that we are able to create with federal and state land managers to ensure that all recreation users have strong voice in public land management decisions.
Because Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds fall well short of providing rural counties with extensive federal land with adequate financial resources to manage county administration, RTP funds are an important funding source for helping counties maintain their roads, trails, and recreation infrastructure.
We encourage you to contact your Senators and request that they support this amendment.
Forest Service Legacy Road and Trail Remediation Program
We are also strongly opposed to SEC. 40801. FOREST SERVICE LEGACY ROAD AND TRAIL REMEDIATION PROGRAM of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. As we read this section it would amend the Forest Roads and Trails Act to create a new program called the Forest Service Legacy Road and Trail Remediation Program. We are concerned that this provision would force closure of any roads and trails that don’t currently appear on a USFS Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). We regularly participate in the administrative processes to inform the creation of MVUMs, and these processes are incredibly fluid and ongoing across the entire USFS system and over a timespan measured in decades. It is often the case that MVUMs miss important roads and trails, and they require updating. The creation of these maps should be open and fluid and strongly informed by local coordinating agencies and stakeholders.
The inclusion of this provision is enough to compromise the integrity of the entire package for those who depend on access to National Forests for their livelihood and recreation. The USFS currently faces significant challenges in fighting increasing numbers of large wildfires. An adaptable road system is necessary to provide a safe operating environment for our wildland firefighters. It is necessary to provide reasonable access to private property owners, grazing permittees, and owners of mineral rights. Outdoor recreation use is exploding on public lands, and arbitrarily closing countless miles of roads through statutory action will reduce opportunities for all forms of outdoor recreation with the impacts most acutely felt by motorized recreation and dispersed camping communities.
We support the amendment offered by Senator Lee to strike this provision from the final bill.
We encourage you to contact your Senators and request that they support Senator Lee’s amendment to strike the Forest Service Legacy Road and Trail Remediation Program from the Infrastructure Bill.
Here is the problematic language that should alarm all users of USFS roads, trails, and transportation networks: