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Dec 12, 2011
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Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Remains in Jeopardy!
A few days ago, we sent you a special ARRA alert telling you that the Recreational Trails Program was in jeopardy. We urged you to immediately contact members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to express support for this very important federal program and thousands of you did! Thank you for being so responsive on such short notice.
Things do change here in Washington and sometimes not for the better. In our November newsletter, I provided you with a report on the legislative status of RTP and indicated that Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), had stated publicly her support for the program and that the committee was going to keep the program intact. Literally within a day from the time we hit the send button to distribute the November newsletter, we learned that the committee leadership, Senator Boxer and Senator James Inhofe, the Ranking Minority Member, were planning to present newly drafted transportation reauthorization legislation to the entire EPW Committee. The new legislation did retain the Recreational Trails Program, but eliminated its dedicated source of funding. For some reason, Senator Boxer thinks we should be pleased with this result.
We, along with a diverse group of other recreation groups, immediately launched a series of meetings on Capitol Hill with the offices of other members of the EPW Committee who shared our concern with the way the draft legislation treated RTP and some other transportation programs. Much to our disappointment, efforts to modify the "draft legislation" were largely rebuffed by the committee leadership prior to the committee markup session.
In recent months, the issue of "transportation enhancements" has become a punching bag of sort since funds for highway construction/repairs are in short supply. RTP is not a transportation enhancement though such items as highway beautification and bicycle lanes are considered such enhancements. Some members have questioned spending money on these other projects when our highways and bridges are in need of repair. But as we keep reminding folks on Capitol Hill, RTP is not an enhancement - it is user paid, user benefit. Unfortunately for us, RTP has been swept up in the broader debate over transportation enhancements and that is why we are in the current legislative predicament.
RTP currently receives almost $90 million in revenue generated by those of you who pay excise taxes on the fuel you use in your off-highway vehicles. While the policymakers still want you to pay those taxes, they just no longer want a portion of what you pay to go towards building and maintaining recreational trails.
As things stand, there are many more chapters yet to be written in this legislative script. The play is far from over. The clock is ticking on the temporary authorization extension that ends in March of 2012, so this issue is not going to go away. If you, by chance, are one of the few who hasn't already used the ARRA website to contact members of the Senate EPW Committee to express support for RTP, please take a minute and do so by going to this link:
Urge Your Members to Support the RTP
In the coming weeks, we will be expanding our legislative outreach to include the entire Senate and House of Representatives. Please be prepared to take action when you receive an ARRA alert encouraging you to do so.
That's all for this month's newsletter. Many other things are happening here in Washington, but the RTP's
future is on such shaky ground we thought it merited our full attention. We hope that with all the many
demands on your time during this busy holiday season, you will answer the call, once again, to defend
RTP when you are asked to do so. Yes, it is in jeopardy but we aren't finished fighting for its future.
Larry E. Smith
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
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