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FOCUS – U.S. Congress Key in Trail Funding

May 16, 2005
Filed under Features

The United States government owns more than 810,000 sq. miles of land in the 48 contiguous states.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is an assistance program of the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and included in the United States House of Representatives and Senate transportation-reauthorization bills.
RTP is an important part of the future of trail programs throughout the country.
Funds from the federal program are made available to states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses.
The RTP funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from off-highway recreational fuel use: fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, and by off-highway light trucks.
The RTP funds are distributed to the states by legislative formula: half of the funds are distributed equally among all states, and half are distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of nonhighway recreational fuel use in each State.
The 109th Congress convened on January 4. In March, the House completed legislative action to provide funding for the RTP. The House measure — a part of HR 3, the Transportation Bill, which passed with a vote of 417 to 9 — authorizes $380 million for the program over four years.
Debate now turns to the U.S. Senate, where the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has the Senate funding RTP with about $214 million, significantly less than the House number.
Last year, the bill made it to a conference between the House and Senate, but stalled there.
In other recent legislation sure to impact powersports recreation within the U.S., Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) introduced the TRAIL Act of 2005 (HR 975) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The TRAIL Act would enforce a consistent set of fines and penalties for the following federal agencies with jurisdiction over public lands, including the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.
“This bill is significant because it will keep public lands open to recreational pursuits,” said ARRA Executive Director Larry E. Smith. “It will also provide for consistent penalties across all public lands agencies for those who would abuse our public lands. Instead of allowing those few who misbehave to deny opportunities to everyone, the TRAIL Act will make it possible to penalize the wrongdoers while keeping our public lands open to all.”

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