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DC Insider: President's Budget Proposal Would Slash Trail Funding

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On April 10, President Barack Obama submitted his proposed budget for fiscal 2014 to Congress. One proposed cut could be disastrous for motorized trail users.  

Buried in the 1,377-page document is one-half of a page pertaining to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Capital Improvement and Maintenance program. The program funds improvements, maintenance and the operation of U.S. Forest Service roads, trails and recreation support facilities, such as buildings. For fiscal 2014, the CIM has added activities previously conducted under the Legacy Roads and Trails program.

Even with the added activities, under the fiscal 2014 budget proposal, the CIM program would be cut by $67.7 million from the annual spending levels of fiscal 2013.

The proposed cut is particularly disturbing in light of the Forest Service’s recent work on off-highway vehicle travel management plans. That is, it will need increased funding so critical maintenance programs are not cut. As these plans were developed, local Forest Service staff repeatedly told OHV enthusiasts that they lacked sufficient funding to maintain existing trails, provide trailhead facilities or to even inventory existing trails.  

Furthermore, funding for good trail design, construction and maintenance are essential to meeting the Obama administration’s stated goals of erosion control, watershed health and forest restoration.

In light of all this, why is the president asking the Forest Service to do more with less?

The OHV enthusiast community has done all it can to assist the Forest Service in funding trails. In addition to consistently asking Congress to provide adequate appropriations, enthusiasts also support the federal Recreational Trails Program and state-level motorized trail programs that provide non-Forest Service funding for trails. The OHV community even supported the Forest Service’s controversial Recreation Fee program for the sake of getting badly needed funds for trail needs. But it is incumbent on the agency to seek and provide a reasonable level of funding for trails in its own budget.  

Both the House and the Senate have already passed separate budget resolutions. As the chambers begin the process of reconciliation, the AMA will keep you updated on how you can tell your senators and representatives know how important the CIM and well-maintained and inventoried trails are to you.

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