#OptOutside on 10 Threatened National Trails

Feeling stuffed after Thanksgiving? Grab your comfy pants and go outside for a post-feast hike to burn off some calories and enjoy the wonderful fall landscapes that this nation has to offer.  On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we encourage Americans to give thanks for our public lands and #optoutside on one of our nation’s spectacular national trails, which provide unique access to our outdoors as well as health and economic benefits.

Here are the Top 10 National Trails projects threatened by cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important conservation program. Our National Scenic and Historic Trails are a world-class resource for locals and tourists alike, major drivers of adjacent communities’ economies, and maintained by thousands of volunteer hours. But they are still incomplete, and vulnerable to disruption by nearby development. If the Trump Administration’s budget cuts are enacted, each of these critical conservation projects will go unfunded, putting these trails at risk. To protect our trails, Congress needs to #SaveLWCF from expiration in September 2018, preventing future national trails projects from being lost forever. Follow these links for more information on LWCF and how to contact your representative and encourage them to #SaveLWCF.

1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Pennsylvania

The Appalachian Trail, one of the most iconic National Park System units in America, is a historic 2,180-mile footpath that travels from Georgia to Maine passing through some of America’s most beautiful landscapes. This project is awaiting the conservation of 4,662 additional acres in Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania, which would secure 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail as well as keystone habitats for bald eagles, bog turtles, black bears, Indiana bats, and northern flying squirrels.

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2. Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, California

The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650-mile path from Mexico to Canada that traverses the scenic ridgelines of California, Oregon, and Washington, popularized by Cheryl Strayed and Reese Witherspoon in the book and movie Wild. The route, enjoyed by many thousands of hikers each year, embodies everything there is to love about the outdoors in the Western United States. A project in California (one of several on the PCT) is awaiting LWCF funds to preserve 3,843 acres, which would allow for the protection of 4.6 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail that currently sit on private lands. The funds would also secure a new trailhead that would provide greater access to 5 alpine lakes.

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3. Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Hawaii

Think Hawaii is just about swank resorts? Think again. The state has an incredibly rich culture and history, one that should not disappear behind private luxury properties. The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is 175 miles long and is historically and culturally significant, traversing through hundreds of ancient Hawaiian settlements. LWCF funding would protect 1,363 acres, which encompasses 444 archaeological features at an ancient coastal indigenous gathering area that hosts a wealth of native plants and wildlife both above and below ground in lava tubes.

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4. Nez Perce National Historic Trail, Idaho

The Nez Perce Historic Trail stretches from Oregon to Montana, and commemorates the 1877 flight of a Native American tribe, the Nez Perce, as they were chased out of the region by Army generals. The trail is an important commemoration of cultural memory, paying homage to one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in American history. In Idaho, LWCF funding is needed to protect 1,130 acres that encompass 2 miles of the trail and include riparian ecosystems crucial to the health of the watershed along with important migratory corridors for animals. The preservation of the land would also allow for increased public access for fishing, an important touchstone for both the lifestyle and the economy of Idaho.

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5. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Virginia

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is a remarkable water route that documents and celebrates a historic encounter between John Smith and indigenous peoples. Over 400 years ago, John Smith and his crew members mapped out almost 3,000 miles of Chesapeake Bay. LWCF funding is needed to preserve 978 acres of this historic site that includes sections of the water trail. The area awaiting preservation would also protect a major migratory bird stopover habitat.

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6. Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Montana

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, traversing 5 Western states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is considered one of the greatest long-distance trails in the world, and while very few complete the arduous journey in full, many adventurers each year enjoy hiking and biking shorter sections of the trail. In Montana, LWCF funding is needed to preserve 620 acres, which would connect existing access points to the trail to increase public use, along with protecting a half-mile of the trail itself.

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7. Florida National Scenic Trail, Florida

Florida National Scenic Trail is a 1,300-mile trail stretching from the Everglades to Pensacola Beach, winding across some the Sunshine State’s most scenic landscapes, from the coast to forests to wetlands. The trail is within easy access of many of the nation’s most densely populated communities and is hailed as a great escape into the outdoors for adventurers. Florida is awaiting LWCF funding for the protection of 29 acres, which will fill trail gaps and provide connectivity between protected areas.

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8. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Washington

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is approximately 3,700 miles long, spanning from Illinois to Oregon, connecting 11 states along the way. The trail pays homage to the legendary journey of early-18th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who are credited as the first European settlers to travel across the West and discover the Pacific Ocean, opening the door to America’s future. LWCF funding is needed to conserve 88 acres in Washington that include unique ecosystems in need of preservation. The project will enhance ecosystem connectivity across Western lands.

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9. North Country National Scenic Trail, Michigan

The North Country National Scenic Trail is a 4,600-mile trail that stretches from New York to North Dakota, “Uniting America’s Red Plaid Nation.” LWCF funds are needed for an urgent project in Michigan’s beautiful, forested Upper Peninsula to close a 6-mile gap in the trail where hikers must currently hug a dangerous roadway. In addition to hiker safety, this project would protect a key access point for outdoor recreationists and fly fisherman along the Sturgeon River, a nationally recognized trout fishing destination, and also allow for wildlife migration under US Highway 41. The land in question is under imminent threat of sale to developers, so if Congress fails to adequately fund LWCF it could be lost to the public forever.

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10. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Tennessee

Spanning Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail covers 330 miles of historic land along the route used by Revolutionary American patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780. LWCF funding is needed to secure 10 acres, which will facilitate public understanding of this important campaign to our nation’s founding history. The funds will be used to protect the historically significant Shelving Rock Encampment Site and preserve original roadbed.

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All photos courtesy of the Partnership for the National Trails System.

The City Kids Wilderness Project & LWCF

 ‘Getting outdoors and into wild areas is good for you’ – this is not a controversial statement. Very few people would disagree that getting outside, disconnecting from technology and appreciating nature is something that we all need more of, not less—especially our kids.

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This is one of the reasons the Land and Water Conservation Fund is so important – it makes it easier for people to get outdoors.  No matter how important and beneficial the outdoors can be, not everyone lives near easily accessible places or has the financial means to get there. Not every family can jump in their car and drive out to the nearest National Park and go camping. How do you get outdoors if you don’t have a car? How do you experience America’s iconic National Parks, like Grand Teton in Wyoming, if you live in the metropolitan east?  Close to home recreation and connecting kids with the outdoors are very serious issues that the Land and Water Conservation Fund and many organizations that partner with the LWCF Coalition are working to address.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is important to the organization that I help lead – City Kids Wilderness Project. City Kids is a youth development nonprofit serving over 130 D.C. urban youth and uses the outdoors as a vehicle to inspire confidence and resiliency within its students. Instead of just taking students out for occasional weekend excursions into the outdoors, City Kids runs a 7-year program starting in 6th grade that builds meaningful connections for their youth to the outdoors. During the school year, we provide our students with afterschool academic support, leadership development, and weekend outdoor adventures. But during the summer, we show kids the wider, wilder world by taking them out to Jackson, WY for summer camp as well as career exploration and job training programming for older students.

What is even more incredible is the tremendous impact we are having within the community as over 97% of the youth who have graduated from our program in the last 5 years have graduated from high school, compared to just 69% of their D.C. peers. In addition, 90% of these youth have enrolled in either a two or four year college program, the military, or vocational schooling. The message is clear; long-term participation in City Kids programming leads to academic success and career opportunities.

In addition to spending the summer in Wyoming and getting outdoors, each year four high school youth have the opportunity along side of Exum Mountain Guides to summit the Grand Teton at 13,776 feet and marvel at the views of the Grand Teton National Park from above - the same place that LWCF recently invested $23 Million to permanently protect land in the middle of the park that was at risk of development. 

City Kids Wilderness Project is helping to get people outdoors who may not have the opportunity to otherwise – something we can all agree is a real area of need. We must ensure that the next generation of Americans has the same love for the outdoors and our amazing public lands that we do.

We also must ensure that our public lands are in the same condition – or better – for future generations. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is our most important tool for doing that. It is the only federal program designed to finance our National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands.  Yet after 52 years of success, this wildly popular, bipartisan-supported program could expire in less than 52 weeks.  This program works—and it helps City Kids work.  America’s outdoors is for everyone, and from backyards to the backcountry, LWCF is committed to access for all.  Congress must act before our most important conservation and recreation program expires!

 

Ryan Banning

Senior Development Associate

The City Kids Wilderness Project

Day on the Hill: My Experience Fighting to #SaveLWCF

Andrew Black fishing on the Wild and Scenic River area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, protected using funding from LWCF.

Andrew Black fishing on the Wild and Scenic River area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, protected using funding from LWCF.

As an individual who appreciates the great outdoors and all of its opportunities, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is personal to me.  I have seen firsthand how important LWCF is for preserving and increasing sportsmen’s access and bettering wildlife habitat, so hunters and anglers can use and enjoy public land for the pursuits that they love most. 

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital to attend the kickoff of a one-year countdown to save LWCF before it expires.  Lawmakers from both parties joined LWCF advocates at the foot of the U.S. Capitol and vowed to prevent America’s most important conservation program from disappearing.  Uncommon allies united for a common cause, and reiterated their commitment to make LWCF permanent.   

It was exciting to see elected officials from across the country stand up and be counted.  Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina and Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington were joined by other Senators and Congressmen from Montana, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado and both Senators from my home state of New Mexico.  

Senator Martin Heinrich said it best, “We shouldn’t have to fight over things that are working.”  I couldn’t agree more as the projects LWCF helps fund are making an enormous difference in our communities, our local economies and in protecting our nations’ land, water and wildlife. The rally left me feeling enthusiastic and reenergized for the battle ahead.  After concluding a successful series of meetings with lawmakers in Washington D.C., I returned home reinvigorated and ready to continue advocating for public land, outdoor recreation and sportsmen’s access.    

I hope you’ll join me and learn more about how LWCF has impacted your state and region, and take a few moments to let your U.S. Representatives and Senators know how important public lands, parks and the outdoors are to you and your family.  For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must take action today to protect and preserve our most precious resources, our land, water and wildlife. 

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Andrew Black is the Director of Community Relations, Education, and Veterans Outreach for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which recently celebrating 100 years of Sportsmen-Based Conservation in New Mexico. 

How to Contact Your Representatives and Talk about LWCF

Are you worried about the future of our public lands and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but not sure what you can do? Calling your congressional delegation is one of the most powerful things we can do as individuals. You don’t need to be an expert on the issue, but the more people who call and talk about the importance of LWCF, the more likely your representative is to notice. It really does work!

So, take five minutes and call your representatives’ offices—you can even call while on a walk enjoying the public lands and local parks you love.

Contacting Your Congressional Delegation

1.    Follow this link

2.    Enter your home address

3.    Your Representative and Senators will be listed along with the contact number for their D.C. office. We strongly encourage you to call.

First Time Calling? Here are some Tips!

1.    Introduce yourself, where you are from in the district/state, why you are calling.

2.    Mention your personal connection to the Land and Water Conservation Fund – public lands in your state, local parks in your community, vacations to National Parks, hunting trips, importance to your business, etc.

3.    Ask your Member of Congress to support robust funding of LWCF and oppose the Trump Administration’s 84% cut to LWCF in their FY18 budget.

4.    Additional talking points are below with more details. You can also visit the “Resources” page and download your state’s factsheet for more specific information.

5.    Thank the person you are speaking to for their time and for passing on your concerns.

Background

·         The Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget proposal would virtually eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with an 84% overall cut to the program from this year’s enacted level.  

o   The budgets for conservation at our National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands would be gutted. 

o   State grant programs to support local recreation facilities, state parks, wildlife habitat and other community conservation priorities would also be decimated. 

o   Working forest protection—which opens up public access and protects drinking water supplies while still keeping jobs in the woods—is zeroed out altogether.

o   Under this scenario agencies could not move forward with any LWCF projects whatsoever. That means once-in-a-generation opportunities to secure public access and protect our National Parks and public lands from private development inside their boundaries will be lost forever.

Talking Points

·         President Trump’s budget proposal to cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 84 percent cannot be taken seriously and is a slap in the face to me and many other Americans.  I strongly support the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  I expect Congress to continue to support the continued use of our royalties from offshore energy development for CONSERVATION and RECREATION as intended by the LWCF Act for over half a century.

·         If these cuts become law, expanded hunting and fishing access will remain closed to the public and hiking, biking, climbing and paddling routes will become overcrowded or left vulnerable to development. This hurts America’s $887 billion recreation economy and the 7.6 million American jobs on which it depends. 

·         The federal government through LWCF has long been a partner in creating urban parks across the country, particularly through state-side grants. LWCF has funded playgrounds, ball fields, and neighborhood parks providing close-to-home recreation for millions of American families.  These local efforts are also on the chopping block.

·         Bipartisan support for LWCF in Congress has been strong and consistent for over half a century.  The Administration’s budget proposal ignores the wishes of a majority in both the House and Senate, as well as ordinary citizens across the country like me. 

·         You must reject this ludicrous and offensive proposal that will hurt both urban and rural communities in every state.  I hope you will stand up and defend our most important conservation and recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund.