Jul 11, 2012

National Outdoor Recreation System Suffers in Transportation Bill

A blow was delivered to the National Outdoor Recreation System (NORS) last week when President Obama signed into law the Surface Transportation Bill (H.R. 4348) that excludes Senate provisions for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The provisions would have included extending authorization for the LWCF from 2015 to 2022, the dedication of funds for enhanced access for hunting and angling, and the allocation of $1.4 billion for the fund for the next two years.

“The outdoor industry depends on access to a full spectrum of public lands and waters for outdoor recreation,” said Kirk Bailey, vice president of government affairs for Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). “Outdoor recreation contributes $646 billion in consumer spending annually, and directly employees 6.1 million Americans. We are very disappointed that significant investments in our National Outdoor Recreation System did not make it into the transportation bill.”

Debated and written by a House-Senate conference committee, the surface transportation bill also reduced spending for transportation enhancements and the Safe Routes to Schools Program. In what shakes out to a $200 million decrease, conferees combined these programs into a line item with the Recreation Trails Program (RTP), and provided $760 million annually to the new line item.

Although RTP is protected at current funding levels of $85 million per year, the bill allows for states to “opt-out” of the program in order to redirect funds back into other transportation programs.

OIA will advocate that states avoid opting out of RTP and, as efforts to enhance funding for LWCF now move back to the appropriations process, we will continue asking member companies to contact key members of Congress. Contact OIA Outreach and Advocacy Manager David Weinstein to lend your support.