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Title: "A Continued Threat to the Resources of Trail Riders"
Author: Valeri Buman, NAES

Equestrian trail riders made their voices heard this summer when the Senate began their debate of the new Drive Act. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed an amendment to the act that would have eliminated the Transportation Alternatives Program which includes the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

The RTP provides funds to individual states in order to help them develop and maintain recreational trails and trail related facilities on state, federal and private lands. These trail uses include equestrian as well as hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling and all-terrain vehicles. One of the purposes behind the RTP is to encourage healthy outdoor recreation.

Funding for the RTP comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. This fund applies a “user-pay/user benefit” philosophy by returning money accrued from taxes on fuel used for non-highway recreation vehicles back to each state. This means non-motorized recreational trail users benefit from the taxes that motorized recreational users pay. However, the elimination of the RTP would equally affect all users of the trail systems whether you are on foot, on horseback or on a snowmobile.

NAES   Each state receives an equal portion of 50% of the federal fund, the
remaining 50% is apportioned to individual states based on their non-highway recreational fuel usage. Within the individual states funds are divided into three categories:

30% is spent for uses relating to motorized recreation

30% for uses relating to non-motorized recreation

40% for projects that facilitate diverse recreational trail use or projects intended to benefit more than one mode of recreational use.

Individual states are responsible for managing how and where their funding is used within the above stated boundaries.

Part of this responsibility includes developing procedures for selecting projects, soliciting project ideas/plans, equipment and additional funds and recruiting, training and organizing volunteers.

As far as this battle goes, the win goes to those recreational trail users that contacted there representatives and encouraged them to vote against Senator Lee’s amendment. However, the war is far from over.

With continued budget cuts and appropriation of tax money similar amendments to reduce or eliminate the RTP will come up again.

Continuing to make your voices and opinions heard is key to this fight but another important step is the use and maintenance of these recreational trails.

Contact your city park systems to find out about volunteer or steward program to help keep these trails safe for you and your equestrian partners.

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