Many thanks to our Congressional supporters

When we join with other trail groups in February for our annual Hike the Hill visits with members of Congress and their staffs, one of the most important things we talk with them about is the Land and Water Conservation Fund and why it’s crucial to the National Trails System.

Many land protection projects along the PCT and other national trails are paid for by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. About 10 percent of the Pacific Crest Trail remains in private ownership, and our long-term goal is to purchase as much of that (from willing sellers, of course) as possible. The LWCF will be essential if we’re to meet that goal.

As we meet with members of Congress, we encourage them to sign a letter supporting the LWCF. The letter, known as a “Dear Colleague Letter” in congressional parlance, is a way for members of Congress to show their support for a bill, program or spending priority. In this case, the letter is delivered to their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee who are charged with crafting the federal budget.

PCTA Board member Ken Schwarz, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, PCTA Regional Representative Justin Kooyman and PCTA volunteer Kevin Black during Hike the Hill in February.

Two congressmen with the PCT in their states, Rep. Earl Blumnauer, an Oregon Democrat, and Dave Reichert, a Washington Republican, drafted the letter. Both are big PCT supporters and for years have had a hand in building support in Congress for the trail and the LWCF. Their staffs circulate their letter urging other members of Congress to sign it. This year, 68 representatives from across the country signed the letter, a record.

We thought their effort was worth noting, and we’d like to thank them as well as all the other members of Congress who signed the letter. We urge you to thank them as well.

LWCF dollars are popular with many people in Congress because they help fund a variety of land protection efforts by state and federal agencies, from big ticket things like National Scenic Trails to urban greenways. They are quality of life projects for many American communities, and best of all, the money is generated by fees on offshore oil exploration leases, not by taxpayers.

While Congressional support for LWCF is very strong, the Trump administration has signaled that it wants to curtail funds going to this important program in the 2018 budget. Where this and other budget line items will end up is an open question. We continue to advocate for steady support for the program and federal land management agencies in our conversations with member of Congress.

At any rate, we’ll keep you informed of how this debate plays out in the coming months. Meanwhile, a heartfelt thank you to the 68 members of Congress who signed the letter supporting LWCF funding for the National Trails System.

You can read the full letter here and see if your Congress member signed it.

Author: Mark Larabee

Mark Larabee is the PCTA's Advocacy Director. He is the former editor of the "PCT Communicator" magazine and co-author of "The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America's Wilderness Trail" published in 2016. Larabee is a journalist, part of a team who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for The Oregonian newspaper. He hiked the PCT across Oregon for a 2005 series for the paper and has been with PCTA since 2010. He lives in Portland.