Supporting Trails


This page provides the facts on current issues, debates, and the ongoing efforts of American Trails to continue its 25 years of support for positive policies and funding for trails and greenways. Check this page for news on federal funding for trails and bicycle/pedestrian programs, budgets for federal land management and outdoor recreation, and other bills in Congress that affect trails and public lands.


Current Alerts and Legislation

Click on the links below for more details


NEWS: November 26, 2015: Land and Water Conservation Fund extension gains new life. Reauthorization of the LWCF legislation, which channels federal funds to parks and public lands, is apparently being discussed by lawmakers over the Thanksgiving weekend. On Nov. 19, The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources did pass a previously negotiated LWCF reauthorization agreement and added it to Chairwoman Murkowski's Sportsmen's Act (S. 556). While uncertain whether this bill will move forward, the good news is that it reaffirmed bipartisan support for LWCF reauthorization in the Senate. Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell had hammered out the bipartisan LWCF agreement early this year.


NEWS: November 25, 2015: Showdown for trails and bike/ped funding in transportation bill looms. December 4 is the deadline for Congress to reconcile the differences between a House-passed bill (HR 3763) and a Senate-passed bill (HR 22). The House bill would extend current parks and trails programs, including Transportation Enhancements and $85 million per year for six years for the Recreational Trails Program. The Senate bill would also keep funding for trails and bike/ped programs under an updated Transportation Alternatives Program. However, with the current political polarity and an unsolved funding crisis, new threats to these programs could surface suddenly. According to Federal Parks & Recreation, "House-Senate conference committees are notorious for introducing provisions to a final bill that are in neither a House-passed nor Senate-passed bills. Thus the peril.."


NEWS: November 4, 2015: Anti-Recreational Trails Program amendments fail to gain support.

From the Coalition for Recreational Trails: In case you haven’t already heard the wonderful news, neither of the anti-RTP amendments that we alerted you about last Friday will be considered on the House floor. The first one (#69) was withdrawn by Representative Buddy Carter. The second one (#158), filed by Representative Ted Yoho, did not make it through the Rules Committee’s vetting process yesterday. As a result, the RTP will be part of the Transportation Reauthorization bill that is eventually approved by the House of Representatives. And since the RTP was included in the legislation already passed by the Senate, we have every reason to expect that the Recreational Trails Program will be in the final version of the legislation that emerges from the House/Senate conference. We are very grateful to the RTP supporters all over the country who made their voices heard in the last few days. Your strong support saved a program of great importance to the entire trails community. Congratulations on this most impressive achievement.


NEWS: October 27, 2015: Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act bill updates federal fee collection and spending.

The House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, October 28, on legislation that would rewrite FLREA, which gives federal agencies authority to increase (and decrease) entrance and user fees. A new bill, titled the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2015 would authorize broad new partnerships with private companies in the management of developed recreation sites on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties. According to Federal Parks & Recreation, "The renewal of FLREA gains priority now because national park units across the country are increasing entrance fees sharply. From all agencies the program took in $278.6 million in fiscal 2014, of which NPS collected $187 million."

The American Recreation Coalition, in cooperation with the National Parks Conservation Association, has developed a sign-on letter to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands expressing strong support for the reauthorization of FLREA and offering comments and recommendations regarding the new FLREA legislation that will be the subject of a hearing by the Subcommittee on October 28. Read the letter supporting FLREA... and see the changes to the law that would be made by the proposed legislation...


NEWS: October 26, 2015: Congress debates reauthorizing money for Land and Water Conservation Fund. Politics are heating up for action on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Many voices, including the President’s, urge Copngress to act on reauthorizing LWCF funding.

While Republicans in both House and Senate have begun to write legislation to revise or extend the law, some western Republicans who control the House Natural Resources Committee would like to revise the law so as to divert some of the program money to federal land management agency maintenance, in particular for the Park Service. The administration wants a straight extension.

Meanwhile the Senate Energy Committee approved S 2012 to extend LWCF permanently. Other stand-alone bills to reauthorize LWCF include S 338 from Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), S 890 and S 2165 from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and S 1925 from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). In the House, one bill to reauthorize LWCF (HR 1814) included more than 140 cosponsors from both parties, led by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) has not moved.

As for FY 2016 appropriations for the program, the Senate Appropriations Committee previously approved an appropriations bill (S 1645) with $157.5 million for federal land acquisition and $55 million for state grants. A counterpart House spending bill (HR 2822) that is now stalled on the floor would appropriate $91 million for the federal side and $48 million for state grants. The FY 2015 appropriation for state grants was $48 million. Read more on LWCF funding proposals... and see commentary by NRPA...


NEWS: October 25, 2015: House keeps bike/ped and trails funding in transportation reauthorization bill.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed its federal transportation funding bill Oct. 22. The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is continued as a separate entity in the bill within a new Surface Transportation Block Grant Program in Section 133(h) and is called “Surface Transportation Program Setaside." HR 3763 would set up a TAP-like fund under which Transportation Enhancements, Scenic Byways and Safe Routes to School would compete for money.

The administration bill (HR 2410) called Grow America recommends that Congress allocate $847 million to the TAP program in fiscal year 2016, up $27 million from a fiscal 2015 allocation of $820 million. The Senate bill ((S. 1647)) is called DRIVE, as in Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act, would extend the existing TAP program with $850 million per year for the next six years.

The debate in Congress will continue to be about funding the shortfall in Highway Trust Fund fuel tax, which contributes only $34 billion per year of the needed $46 billion. So Congress must come up with $13 billion or more per year from other sources of revenue, or increase gasoline taxes. Check this page for updates on transportation funding...


NEWS: August 7, 2015: Senate passes "DRIVE": a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The US Senate has passed the new bill titled the "Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act" by a vote of 65-34. October 31, 2015 is now the new deadline for the House to pass its own multi-year transportation bill. The Senate legislation maintains "Transportation Alternatives" funding, which includes trails and bike/ped programs, at $850 million a year, up from the current $819 million. The Recreational Trails Program continues as a "set-aside" fund within the Transportation Alternatives. Trail advocates believe the transportation bill is a win as it keeps funding for State trails grants intact. Read the full text of the bill... - See analysis by League of American Bicyclists...


NEWS: August 7, 2015: Permanent funding proposed for Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Legislation approved by the Senate Energy Committee would reauthorize the LWCF permanently. Most of the funds would be split 40-40 between federal projects and grants to states for local projects, including trails and greenways. This 40 percent minimum for “grants to states” would also include USFS Forest Legacy programs for “working forests," USFWS Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation, and the the NPS American Battlefield Protection Program. The bill would also establish a separate National Park Service maintenance account. Read more about LWCF legislation...


NEWS: July 30, 2015: Attack on funding for trails, walking, and biking defeated in Senate bill.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had introduced an amendment (S.A. 2280) to eliminate the Transportation Alternatives Program as well as the Recreational Trails Program. The Coalition for Recreational Trails reports that "the provisions affecting the Recreational Trails Program were left alone. The amendments from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have eliminated RTP - which we asked you to help stop - were not brought up for consideration. While it's difficult to track exactly, we have heard that volumes of calls opposing Sen. Lee's amendments were received by Senate offices. Thank you so much for your tremendous help!"


NEWS: July 16, 2015: House passes six-month extension of Federal transportation funding.

The House passed yet another in the series of extensions of MAP-21, the current transportation funding law. The funding was set to expire July 31 and now continues to December 18 with programs for trails and bike/ped projects intact. House leadership claims to be working on a long-term funding solution. The short-term bill would require Congress to come up with $8 billion to cover the shortfall between fuel tax revenue and the planned expenditures. Meanwhile, the Senate is continuing work on a six-year bill with various authorizing committees working on funding and policy issues. Read more in Washington Examiner article...


NEWS: July 9, 2015: Organizations write Congress in support of the Transportation Alternatives Program

A recent letter to Congress in support of the Transportation Alternatives Program was signed by 302 organizations signed on, with at least one from every state across the country. The letter was coordinated by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to show the wide range of support for the TAP program and the broad benefits that come from trails, walking and biking. Download letter in support off Transportation Alternatives... (pdf 7.8 mb)


NEWS: June 28, 2015: House to resume consideration of Interior appropriations bill (HR 2822) July 7

House and Senate appropriations committees have proposed Federal land management agency budgets for 2016. The Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bills (HR 2822 and S 1645) generally maintain funding at the same level as 2015. Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds are still being debated. The House approved $91 million for Federal land acquisition and $48 million for State grants to open space, trails, and parks projects. The Senate version allocates $157.5 million for the Federal side and $55 million for State grants. Read more from House Appropriations Committee...


NEWS: June 3, 2015: Federal transportation funding update from Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Transportation funding extended to July 31: The current extension for MAP-21 was set to expire May 31, but with no agreement on a long-term funding fix Congress just extended it yet again. At least $15 billion/year is needed to fill in the revenue shortfall, but no consensus is in sight. Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee has set their markup for the Senate portions of the transportation bill (which includes trails and bike/ped programs) for June 24.

Efforts to ban bike path spending: While there has been increasing support for trails, bicycling, and walking, some members of Congress have introduced bills to stop use of federal dollars for what they see as non-highway projects. In addition, members of Congress can offer amendments to the overall Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill to limit how money can be spent, for instance banning spending on bicycling or walking infrastructure.


NEWS: May 6, 2015: Organizations ask USDOT Secretary Foxx to step up bike/ped safety initiatives. Organizations are being asked to sign on to a letter to USDOT Secretary Foxx supporting policies to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The goal is to communicate the importance of making strategic reforms to administrative policies and practices that will maximize the impact of DOT's safety agenda for people walking and cycling. The letter, written by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, asks DOT to inventory agency policies and practices to identify reform opportunities and we specify a series of issues-like speed limits, transit access, and integrating health into transportation-that could make the reform real. Read more...


NEWS: May 1, 2015: Senate introduces National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act as companion to House bill. Senate Bill 1110 (S. 1110) is a companion bill to H.R. 845 which is currently before the House of Representatives. The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act responds, in part, to a June 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office that reviewed the status and causes of the Forest Service trail maintenance backlog. It would would direct the Forest Service to develop strategies to more effectively use volunteers and partners to assist in maintaining national forest trails. The bill was introduced at the request of Back Country Horsemen of America, Wilderness Society, and American Horse Council. Read more about the partnership supporting the National Forest Trails System Stewardship Act...


NEWS: April 28, 2015: Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act introduced. Senators Cochran and Cardin have introduced S. 705 to amend language related to the Transportation Alternatives Program, which provides federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs as well as the Recreational Trails Program. According to Sen. Cochran, the bill would: • Restore funding for TAP to the 2012 funding levels that existed for the three consolidated programs (Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails) that were consolidated to create TAP. • Ensure that two-thirds of the program’s funds are distributed by population, ensuring that rural areas, small towns and large cities are able to access appropriate shares of resources. • Give states the flexibility to meet federal cost-sharing requirements across the entire program, which would result in lower matching requirements for lower-resourced communities being offset by higher matches from larger communities within a state. Read text of the bill...

Fact Sheets about S. 705 are available from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the League of American Bicyclists. A S. 705 grassroots alert draft is also available with text explaining the bill.

See the final sign-on letter supporting S. 705, with 42 organizations signing on to promote the Transportation Alternatives Program Improvement Act and the letter from American Trails stating that "if there is an increase in transportation funding and/or an increase in TAP funding, that American Trails would of course request an increase in Recreational Trails Program funding as well."


NEWS: April 21, 2015: Speak Up for Trails, Walking, and Biking! As the May 31 expiration date for Federal transportation funding (MAP-21) approaches, a chorus of voices is calling for the elimination of the Transportation Alternatives Program and its funding for bike/ped, trail, and safe routes to school facilities in the next transportation bill. Now is the time to fight back! The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has written a Pro-TAP Letter to Congress and is asking for organizations to sign on by April 24. We ask our lawmakers to protect and prioritize our programs for trails, walking and biking in the current reauthorization. Read more and see the letter supporting TAP...


NEWS: March 19, 2015: Massie: No More Bike Paths, Trails, Light Rail from Highway Trust Fund. Congressman Thomas Massie introduced the DRIVE (Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy) Act of 2015 with Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH), Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), and Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) as original co-sponsors. The bill (H.R. 1461) would "help keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and improve our national infrastructure, without raising the gas tax, by refocusing the Highway Trust Fund on its original and proper role of building and maintaining federal highways and bridges." The bill would eliminate funding for bike paths, sidewalks, mass transit, and other local projects. Read more ...


NEWS: March 15, 2015: Congressional allies champion Recreational Trails Program. When Congress last enacted major transportation legislation, the Recreational Trails Program funding was retained despite major efforts to reduce the number of federal surface transportation programs by three-quarters. This success was due not only to strong congressional champions, but also to the efforts of trail enthusiasts and advocacy organizations united through the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT). Derrick Crandall, Co-Chair of the CRT, details these efforts and the current status of support among our Senators and Representatives for continuing essential trails funding. Read more ...


NEWS: February 13, 2015: Administration asks for full funding of LWCF and increases in Federal land and recreation expenditures. According to February 3, 2015 Federal Parks & Recreation, funding levels for Federal lands and related recreation programs would rise somewhat over FY2014. National Park Service administration, for instance, would rise to $3.048 billion, an increase of $433 million over fiscal 2015. For BLM recreation the administration recommended $75.4 million compared to a fiscal 2015 appropriation of $67 million. Read more on proposed Federal land budgets for FY2016...

The administration also requests $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Out of that $53.2 million would go to the States for local park and trail grant programs. The proposal assumes that Congress will pass new legislation to guarantee $900 million per year for LWCF. Read more on LWCF funding proposals...


NEWS: February 13, 2015: Administration makes FY2016 Federal transportation budget request. The Obama administration on February 2 asked Congress to allocate $847 million to a Transportation Alternatives Program, up $27 million from a fiscal 2015 allocation of $820 million. The challenge is how to boost overall transportation funding. The President proposed a restructuring of the tax code to generate revenue from corporations that seek to repatriate income from foreign countries. Others have suggested an increase in the Federal fuel tax, a politically difficult stance for many in Congress.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation in its budget statement, “The program creates safe, accessible, attractive, and environmentally sensitive communities where people want to live, work, and engage in recreation. This program provides resources to expand transportation choices and enhance the transportation experience.”

The February 3, 2015 Federal Parks & Recreation summed up the concern for trail advocates: "The proposals are crucial to outdoor programs because without significant new sources of money Congressional leaders will be tempted to limit surface transportation spending to core highway construction. And they might terminate recreation programs such as transportation enhancements and recreational trails."


NEWS: Heritage Foundation focuses on Highway Trust Fund spending. A book of government cost-cutting ideas offered by the conservative Heritage Foundation on Thursday includes a big one for transportation: limit spending from the Highway Trust Fund only to the amount of revenue the fund collects from federal highway taxes (roughly $39 billion annually).

The Heritage Budget Book said that “Congress diverts at least 25 percent of HTF dollars to non-road, non-bridge projects, including bicycle and nature paths, sidewalks, subways and buses, landscaping, and related low-priority and purely local activities.” See the full story by Roll Call at:


NEWS: FEB. 11, 2015 - 10:00 am EST: House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearing on “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill: Laying the Foundation for U.S. Economic Growth and Job Creation Part I”.

Supporters of trail and bike/ped funding were urged to tweet questions or comments (#StuckInTraffic) in support of the Recreational Trails Program prior to or during the Twitter Town Hall. Read more...





The House approved HR 3979 on December 4 to fund a wide variety of national parks initiatives. According to Dec. 19, 2014 Federal Parks & Recreation, the bill includes funding for additions to several national park units and extend several national heritage areas. It would also authorize the Treasury Department to mint $5 gold coins, $1 silver coins and half-dollar coins during 2016 for the NPS Centennial. The provisions are part of an omnibus bill, titled "National Defense Authorization Act," which includes many add-on programs. Read more...


Another try for ADT designation: National Discovery Trails Act of 2013 (H.R. 3022 and S. 2346)

July 21, 2014: A hearing is scheduled for Jul 23, 2014 (2:30) p.m by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources - Subcommittee on National Parks. S. 2346 would (1) establish a national system of discovery trails under the National Trails Act and (2) designate the American Discovery Trail the first unit of the discovery trails. See S. 2346 Bill Summary and Status...


H.R. 4886: National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act of 2014

June 20, 2014: Trail Stewardship Act would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to publish in the Federal Register a strategy to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in National Forest System trail maintenance, and for other purposes. This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on June 18, 2014, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. Read more...


Administration sends 2014 transportation funding proposal to Congress

May 3, 2014: The Obama administration unveiled a new plan for Federal transportation programs, which has included funding for trails as well as bicycle/pedestrian facilities and related programs. Trail advocates are closely watching these developments to ensure that such funding continues. Read more...


 Senators support continuation of the Recreational Trails Program

arrow See the final Senate Dear Colleague Letter signed by 24 Senators with 18 Democrats and 6 Republicans (pdf 1.4 mb)

April 29, 2014: The Coalition for Recreational Trails has been working with members and staff of the United States Senate to boost awareness of and support for the Recreational Trails Program. U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have released a Dear Colleague letter to the Senate Transportation Committee, supporting the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) in the next surface transportation authorization bill.

arrow Read more about the campaign for reauthorizing the Recreational Trails Program...


Sept. 1, 2014: Signatures urged to letter asking U.S. DOT to include public health considerations in their proposed Transportation Planning rule

The Partnership for Active Transportation is circulating a sign-on letter to encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to require the inclusion of public health considerations in transportation planning and to improve the provisions related to walking and biking. This will ensure that safe and convenient active-transportation networks are available for millions of Americas, which will help prevent chronic diseases and premature deaths associated with a lack of physical activity and ultimately save billions of taxpayer dollars spent on health car. Read more...

Aug. 1, 2014: S 2322: proposed Senate six-year transportation authorization bill

The Senate voted to amend the House-passed Highway Trust Fund bill but shortened the extension time so that it expires Dec. 19, 2014. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature. Read more...


July 1, 2014: Senators Oppose funding for Forest Service LWCF

Seven Republican senators June 26 called for zeroing out Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) funding for the Forest Service in fiscal year 2015. Read more...


July 1, 2014: Senator seeks to eliminate TAP funding

July 30, 2014: Sen. Toomey's amendment failed to gather the 60 votes of support it needed when the Senate voted on the Transportation funding bill.

July 8, 2014: Pennsylvania organizations are urged to sign a letter to Sen. Toomey prepared by the Rail-to-Trails Conservancy opposing his amendment and supporting the continuation of TAP programs, including the RTP.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has mounted a campaign to eliminate money for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). If accepted, the Senate Finance Committee would forbid any Highway Trust Fund money from being used for TAP, which allocates more than $700 million per year to bike/ped and recreational trails programs. Read more...

June 5, 2014: The Obama administration unveiled a new plan for Federal transportation programs, which has included funding for trails as well as bicycle/pedestrian facilities and related programs. Trail advocates are closely watching these developments to ensure that such funding continues. Read more...


June 10, 2014: Transportation Appropriations proposal strips trails eligibility from TIGER grants

The House approved its fiscal year 2015 transportation appropriations bill (HR 4745) that would bar the use of regional grant money called TIGER for recreation and trails.

May 12, 2014: A big change to funding eligibility was included in the new House Committee on Appropriations proposed budget for transportation and housing for FY 2015. What would not be eligible are what are called "non-essential purposes, such as street-scaping, or bike and pedestrian paths." Also ineligible are ADA compliance for sidewalks or recreational trails. In short the bill proposes to limit TIGER grants to projects that “address critical transportation needs,” defined as roads and bridges, ports, and freight rail.

arrow See ACTION needed on this issue, plus links to project examples and analysis of the proposal. Read more...


April 9, 2014: Coalition for Recreational Trails maps out strategies for RTP reauthorization

CRT leaders met with Congressional staffers to promote continued funding for the Recreational Trails Program. They also outlined the CRT Position on Recreational Trails Program Reauthorization. The message from RTP Congressional Championsis to not wait to begin advocacy of RTP in light of announced plans by key Congressional leaders to work on MAP-21’s successor this spring. Read more...


April 2, 2014: Senators support continuation of the Recreational Trails Program

The Coalition for Recreational Trails announces a wonderful opportunity to boost awareness of and support for the Recreational Trails Program within the United States Senate. However, we have to take action by April 9!

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have released a Dear Colleague letter soliciting signatures for a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member on the Committee, supporting the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) in the next surface transportation authorization bill.

See the Dear Colleague request and the planned letter to the EPW leadership (pdf 1.3 mb)


arrow See many more past alerts, campaigns, and actions on the ARCHIVES page...

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