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DC Insider: Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase access opportunities

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As Congress makes a last minute dash to wrap up its legislative business before campaigning begins in earnest, the American Motorcyclist Association urges recreationists, lawmakers and land managers to consider how recreational facilities are going to be maintained over the long term.

As I have noted in other blog posts, if many recreational opportunities are to remain open, safe and environmentally responsible, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act will need to be reauthorized, albeit with additional transparency requirements.

However, the FLREA will not be enough to reduce the maintenance backlog on federal lands.

Instead, we urge lawmakers to look at the Land and Water Conservation Fund as an additional source of recreational funding.

The president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposed $900 million for the LWCF. It states: “This funding will provide the stability needed for agencies and states to make strategic, long-term investments in the nation’s natural infrastructure and outdoor economy to support jobs, preserve natural and cultural resources, bolster outdoor recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife.”

The AMA fully supports preserving resources and bolstering outdoor recreation. However, federal LWCF revenues are used predominantly for land acquisition – $214 million in 2010 – and other projects that increase the burden on land managers’ already strained budgets.

This ensures the LWCF is not as effective as it could be in increasing recreational opportunities.

We urge lawmakers to consider allowing a portion of LWCF to be used for maintenance and enhancement of current trails and trail-related facilities.

Why buy more, you don’t use what you already own?

The environmental upside is significant.

With the proper funding, off-highway-vehicle trails can be built and maintained using the standard set by Joe Warnex and the AMA.

This would significantly reduce the environmental impact of trails – a win-win for recreationists, conservations and land managers.

The change in emphasis would reduce the maintenance backlog and increase existing recreational opportunities on federal land.

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