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[pct-l] AHS Capitol Trails Broadcast

	American Hiking Society's	December 1997
	Capitol Trails Broadcast for AHS Affiliates and Partners	No. 16

     ***** Recreation Excise Tax May Revive *****

    Proponents of the Teaming with Wildlife excise tax proposal are making a
last-ditch, big-money effort to get their bill introduced in Congress in 1998.
The proposal would tax hiking and outdoor equipment and direct the revenues
(estimated to be $350 million annually) to state fish and wildlife agencies. 

    American Hiking Society has opposed this proposal since its inception.
Because state fish and wildlife agencies manage fishing and hunting programs
and have little or no background in non-consumptive recreation, the tax
revenues on hiking equipment are not likely to be spent on protecting or
maintaining the trail resources hikers use and enjoy.

    State fish and wildlife agencies have spent the last few years generating
support for the excise tax from birding and other wildlife groups. That
support has been stopped dead on Capitol Hill. For one, the Republican-
controlled Congress is reluctant to champion a tax bill and for two, most
people who would have to pay the tax -- recreationists -- oppose the concept.

    As a result, the excise tax's proponents have hired three high-priced,
high-profile lobbyists to try to get the job done. American Hiking believes
that Teaming with Wildlife is a bad bill for hikers and urges all trail
supporters to contact their Representatives and Senators between now and the
end of January, when the second session of the 105th Congress begins. The fish
and wildlife lobbyists will be making a big push between now and then, so
opponents should too.

     ***** 1997 Wrap-up *****

    Thanks to all who have responded to American Hiking Society's Capitol
Trails Broadcasts in 1997. Because of your efforts, federal trail funding has
remained steady or increased, while other programs have been cut.

Anti-Rail-Trail Bill (H.R. 2438): 

   American Hiking was key to halting Rep. Jim Ryun's (R-KS) bill designed to
disable rail-trails. It appeared to be on the fast-track through the House of
Representatives until it was halted by American Hiking Society and other rail-
trail proponents as the bill was being marked-up in the House Parks and Public
Lands Subcommittee. 

   At the mark-up, the Democrat members exhibited strong support, as expected.
What hurt the bill most, though, were the questions raised by Republicans
Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Joel Hefley (R-CO). Rep. Hefley-s opposition was
particularly strong and Rep. Ryun was forced to withdraw his bill before it
was killed outright. 

   This subcommittee seats some of the most virulent anti-trail Congress
Members and a victory here was unexpected. The victory may be short-lived as
the bill can be re-scheduled for mark-up in the spring.

   If you live in Rep. Gilchrest or Hefley's districts, or in the districts of
sub-committee Democrats, please thank them for their strong support for trails
and urge them to adhere to those principles in 1998.

FY '98 Final Appropriations:

  * Bureau of Land Management:  $500,000 increase to recreation resources
management, of which $400,000 is for certain trails. The BLM does not have a
separate line-item for trails in its budget, so trails have to fight for their
funding within the $50 million recreation resources management program. This
year, however, Congress earmarked specific amounts for certain trails:
$100,000 is provided for the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide National
Scenic Trails and the De Anza, California, Mormon Pioneer, Nez Perce, Oregon,
and Pony Express National Historic Trails, $200,000 is provided for the Lewis
and Clark Trail, and $100,000 is provided for the Iditarod National Historic
  * National Park Service: $350,000 increase to the national trails system
budget, divided among the North Country Trail ($50,000), the Lewis and Clark
Trail ($250,000), and the California and Pony Express Trails ($50,000).
Congress increased the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program by
$200,000, well under the $1 million increase we hoped for.
  * USDA Forest Service:  One of our greatest budgetary victories was FS Trail
Construction/Reconstruction which rose by $5.3 million over last year's budget
to $27.3 million. Again, Congress ear-marked most of that increase for
specific projects, including $750,000 for the Colorado section of the
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. On top of the
Construction/Reconstruction budget, Congress added $1 million for trail
maintenance in the Pacific Northwest region.
  * Land and Water Conservation Fund:  Congress included $700 million for
LWCF-more than any other year-but tinkered with the funding formula. Sixty
percent of this fund is supposed to go to state land acquisition and
operations, and 40 percent is for federal land acquisition. For FY '98,
Congress gave no money to the states and it said that an unspecified amount of
the money may be used on federal operations and maintenance over the next four
years, which is currently not permitted under LWCF. On the plus side, the
Appalachian Trail got the full amount it needed: $4.2 million for land
purchased by the Park Service and $3 million for the Forest Service.

American Discovery Trail Bill:

   In November, a bill to designate the American Discovery Trail (H.R. 588) as
the first national discovery trail in our national trails system was marked-up
by the House Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee. Several questionable
amendments were added. We will keep you informed as the bill progresses
through Congress.