Hike the Hill 2016

Hike the Hill 2016

NCTA Executive Director Bruce Matthews, Finger Lakes Trail Conference acting Executive Director Quinn Wright and Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) discussing the Trail. View of view of Thomas Circle, Washington DC.

“Hike the Hill” is when the national trails community annually descends on Washington DC for meetings with federal agency partners and Members of Congress. Here are some highlights from this year’s Hike The Hill for the North Country National Scenic Trail and NCTA:

With the 2016 “Hike the Hill” in the rearview mirror…..

Was it a success?

Five new co-sponsors for H.R. 799, our NCNST Route Adjustment Act!

H.R. 799 now has 28 co-sponsors, with 15 Democrats and 13 Republicans—a truly bipartisan effort!

The NCTA team (volunteers Laura DeGolier (WI), John Heiam (MI), Quinn Wright (NY) and me) held 29 meetings with Senators and Representatives from NCNST states as well as the House Natural Resources Committee.

NCTA got a great boost from our Ice Age NST friends, Rod Barlow and Mike Wollmer, in our Wisconsin meetings.

Meetings with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, as well as National Park Service administrators.

Hike the Hill 2016

(L to r) FLTC acting ED Quinn Wright and NCTA ED Bruce Matthews in front of the Capitol, which is undergoing extensive restoration.

And here are some takeaways from a week in Washington:

Constituent contacts matter!!! Time and again we hear how important it is for Members of Congress to hear from home how folks feel about bills like HR 799/S. 403 (ReRoute Bill). This is why having John, Laura and Quinn making visits to their home states delegation is effective. Four of the five new co-sponsors were a direct result of these visits.

Our toughest hurdle with H.R. 799, our NCNST Reroute bill, is getting on the House Natural Resources Committee agenda for a hearing. Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) has a strong anti-public lands agenda, and HR 799, innocuous as it is, still appears to him as expanding the federal footprint and growing the National Park Service. We keep chipping away at it, with modest success including meetings with Congressman Bishop’s and the Committee staff as well as “hold-out” Republican members of the Committee like Congressman Glenn Thompson (PA-05-R) where we address the Tea Party agenda and try to demonstrate why HR 799 is a winner. Its an uphill climb, helped immeasurably when constituents contact their representatives.

Our best bet is likely the Senate version (S. 403), which as of this writing is queued up included in a package of amendments to S. 2012, the Energy Modernization Policy Act currently being considered by the Senate.

We’re told we’ve got about a four month window left in this 114th Congress before they’ll pretty much close up for the summer and then the fall election.

Overall, we’d need to call Hike the Hill 2016 a success, particularly in growing NCTA’s advocacy effort by including our volunteers, and in growing support for our Route Adjustment Bill. Some things in Washington may not be changing in the near future, but NCTA’s investment in advocacy is a long-term one, and the relationships thus built, while done in faith, are still important.

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