Executive Director Bruce Matthews has been in Washington DC this week, supporting Trails Advocacy Week with the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS): Here is his summary of the week as he wades through weather delays and cancellations trying to get back home:
Trails Advocacy Week 2014 is history. We’ve met with federal agency representatives, Members of Congress and their staffs, and as a Partnership. We honored the retiring trails coordinator for the National Park Service, Steve Elkinton. We learned some things about new administrative directions and we advocated strongly on behalf of the national scenic and historic trails. We laid the groundwork for the introduction of the North Country NST Re-Route Bill of 2014,that will include BOTH the MN Arrowhead as well as the Eastern Terminus extension into Vermont to connect the NCNST with the Appalachian Trail. I came away with a feeling of cautious enthusiasm that maybe, just maybe in this second session of the 113th Congress, they might actually make some legislation.
Some key takeaways for the week, in no particular order:
- The PNTS appears poised to make some major changes in governance and funding structure that ought to make it more focused and effective as the umbrella organization advocating for and advancing the agenda of all the national scenic and historic trails;
- The PNTS seems likely to closely examine how it intends to do future Trails Advocacy Weeks, including relationships with partner organization American Hiking Society and its sponsored “Hike the Hill;”
- The three federal agencies who manage national scenic and historic trails (National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management) have key folks in leadership roles who “get” what we do, and are helping us advance the national trails agenda.
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund will continue to be our collective best strategy for funding trails projects, both collaboratively as the PNTS and individually through working with agency partners as well as the states’ allocations. NCTA’s advocacy efforts at full funding of LWCF as well as its 2015 permanent re-authorization are well-focused and justified.
- NCTA’s efforts to build relationships with key Members of Congress and their staffs continue to be another important aspect of advocacy; and we must make every effort to engage NCTA Advocacy Committee in building relationships with each Member’s offices in their home states and districts.
- We’re getting traction for a jointly introduced (House and Senate) NCT Re-Route Bill of 2014. The entire Vermont delegation, MN Senators Klobuchar and Franken and MN-08 Rep. Nolan seem pretty on-board with this strategy, which we’ll be working on in the next couple weeks. In addition Senators Levin and Stabenow (MI) and Senator Gillibrand (NY) are all ready to sign on. We’ll need a lot of work to line up some Republican co-sponsors, but that will be high on the agenda as well. We laid some good groundwork in DC that we’ll be working hard to leverage in these next few weeks.