The newsletter of AMERICAN TRAILS -- SPRING 1999

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Trails legislation in Congress

$1 billion proposed for new Lands Legacy Initiative

By Denise Obert, National Recreation and Park Association

The President's proposed fiscal year 2000 budget recommends a "landmark" $1 billion "Lands Legacy Initiative" and would also increase spending on conservation and "livability" initiatives. First announced on January 12, and cited January 19 in the President's State of the Union, the "Lands Legacy Initiative represents a 125 percent increase in spending on land conservation and recreation. President Clinton said the program will "recognize the importance of preserving pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen" and "provide significant new resources to states and local communities."

The "Lands Legacy Initiative" calls from $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, marking the first time any Administration has recommended full funding from the LWCF. The President also requested "permanent appropriation" authority for LWCF beginning in FY 2001-- an outcome that will be difficult to obtain, but remains the only way to bring predictability to capital investment processes.

Specific elements most critical to trail and recreation advocates include:

$442 million for federal land acquisitions, including the Mojave desert, New England forests, the Everglades, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and Civil War battlefields.

$588 million to state and local governments, private land trusts and other nonprofit groups, to preserve local green spaces. This money includes $150 million for LWCF state assistance matching grants and $4 million to renovate parks in distressed urban neighborhoods.

Other state monies would be used for "smart growth" planning grants, habitat conservation, urban forests and coastal protection.

The Lands Legacy Initiative will be coordinated with VP Gore's "Livability Agenda" announced January 11. That agenda focuses on "helping communities grow in ways that ensure a high quality of life and strong, sustainable economic growth, " said Vice President Gore. This $1 billion initiative will also be included in the President's budget and would provide communities with new tools and resources to preserve green space, ease traffic congestion and pursue regional "smart growth" strategies, including new bonds to help communities create or restore urban parks.

More information on both proposals is available from the White House web site (www.whitehouse.gov.

The Administration's recently-announced support for federal-state-local partnerships for recreation and conservation is a direct turn-around from prior years when the administration has recommended NO funds for LWCF state assistance grants and urban park restoration programs. However, strong references in both proposals and accompanying remarks about restoration of urban communities are not reflected in the disappointing $4 million they recommend for the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program.

Further, both the president and key legislators now have proposals on the table that would restore federal-state partnerships for conservation and recreation opportunity. While they differ significantly, the bipartisan interest of both the president and the Congress in this issue increases the likelihood that something positive will result!

Contact: Denise Obert, National Recreation and Park Association, (703) 858-2184


Higher LWCF funding proposed for 1998-99

The Land And Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has a long history of helping acquire open space as well as developing trails and park facilities. But even though the program is authorized at $900 million annually, only $270 is proposed for federal land acquisition and none at all for the states. An ambitious effort to fully fund LWCF and revitalize the state side matching grants program is being promoted through the Interior Appropriations bill.

The Lands Legacy Program would refocus the LWCF state grants program on "smart growth," open space preservation and land acquisition. The thrust of the existing program-- expanding opportunity for public recreation through land conservation and development of recreation areas and facilities-- will apparently be diminished.

The Administration's proposals are critically important from a tactical perspective because they are recommended as part of the balanced budget request. This eliminates the need for advocates of full LWCF funding and urban park restoration to find a politically acceptable budget "offset."

For more information: Denise Obert, National Recreation and Park Association (703) 858-2184

Discovery Trail legislation back in Congress

By Reese Lukei, American Discovery Trail

"It sometimes takes years to get a bill through Congress." Those are the words of a legislative aide with whom we have worked closely in our effort to create a new category of National Discovery Trails and to have the American Discovery Trail authorized as the first of these new long-distance trails.

We made significant progress with the legislation in the 105th Congress, but in the end the House bill (H.R. 588) was not reported out of committee nor sent to the full House for a vote. The Senate bill (S. 1069) was passed by unanimous vote in July. We expect to see the National Discovery Trails Act will be reintroduced in both House and Senate.

For more information on the National Discovery Trails Act bills, contact Reese Lukei, National Coordinator (800) 851-3442; e-mail: adtsociety@aol.com.

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