Bipartisan bill would update funding formula and provide fair funding to support recreational trails.

Washington, DCToday, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Angie Craig (D-MN) introduced legislation that will more than double funding for the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Since 1991, RTP has provided funding to states to develop and maintain outdoor recreational trails, allowing millions of Americans and their families to enjoy activities such as off-roading, snowmobiling, hiking, bicycling, and cross-country skiing.

“The Recreational Trails Program has created countless opportunities for motorized recreation and human-powered experiences,” said Curtis. “This bill will ensure that future generations get to visit the great outdoors, while supporting local economies and jobs, especially throughout rural areas.”

Our nation has unparalleled natural beauty that provides year-round opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Welch. “Boosting funding for this important program will ensure that future generations will experience the joy of hiking and exploring our scenic trails for many years to come.”

“I’m excited to introduce the Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020 with Rep. Welch to make sure folks have quality trails to enjoy Minnesota’s four seasons for hiking, cross country skiing and taking their ATV’s out,” said Craig. “Not only will this bill invest in these opportunities right now, but it also makes sure future generations of Minnesotans and visitors can experience the beauty of the Minnesota River Valley and our well-traveled trails from Zumbrota to Cottage Grove.”

Statements of Support

Bud Bruening, President of UTV Utah: “UTV Utah supports the Recreational Trails Program Full Funding Act of 2020. Motorized recreation is one of the largest contributors to the outdoor recreation economy, and we welcome any improvements to programs that are designed to invest in motorized recreation.”

Clif Koontz, Executive Director of Ride with Respect: “Trail use is growing, yet the USFS and BLM’s recreation budgets are dwindling, so more funding is desperately needed to protect the trails and their surroundings. If the RTP budget were to become several-times larger, we are confident that all of it would be put to good use. Those funds would boost local economies since trails are a key amenity for tourists and residents alike. For these reasons, Ride with Respect wholeheartedly supports the RTP Full Funding Act of 2020, and we appreciate your initiative on this vital issue.” Full letter [HERE].

Ben Burr, Policy Director of BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails: “The RTP framework has resulted in positive investments into recreational access. However, there is room for improvement in how the funding for the program is determined, and there is a need for increased transparency to ensure all members of the outdoor recreation community benefit as intended. The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020 is a great step towards correcting these deficiencies in the program.” 

Scott Schloegel, Senior Vice President Government Relations for the Motorcycle Industry Council: “The RTP is a critical program for ensuring the development and maintenance of trails for motorcycles, ATVs and side-by-sides. We appreciate Congressman Curtis’ leadership on this legislation that will require a fresh study of the amount of gas tax paid by the powersports community, so we can fight to return more of that money to trails in Utah and states all across the country.  It will also require states to report on the amount of motorized, non-motorized, and mixed use trails they are funding so we can ensure states are meeting the 30%, 30%, 40% goals set forth in the RTP.”

Background

The bill will more than double RTP funding to at least $250 million. The program is modeled after the Highway Trust Fund and is funded through taxes paid on gasoline used to fuel snowmobiles, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles that do not use highways. The program is currently funded at $84 million annually, which is substantially less than is collected in taxes on fuel used by these vehicles.

The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020:

  • requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to estimate the amount of gas taxes paid by non-highway recreational users. The current estimate is more than a decade old, but suggests that those users pay more than $270 million.
  • increases RTP funding from $84 million to $250 million.
  • increases the transparency of the programs funded.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Mike Simpson (R-ID).

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