For current news on these bills, see "News
& Action" on American Trails' Web site: www.outdoorlink.com/amtrails
Details of the bills are in "Resources & Library" in the "Federal Scene & ISTEA" section or in "Rails to Trails."
"BESTEA": good news for ISTEA renewal
Both the House and Senate have introduced bills to reauthorize ISTEA. The good news is that both versions leave intact the basic structure of ISTEA, including Enhancements. The response from bicycle and pedestrian advocates has been positive, with a fairly small number of concerns.
H.R. 2400, dubbed "BESTEA" for "Building Efficient Surface Transportation and Equity Act," is the House bill. It is sponsored by Rep. Bud Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
The Senate version, introduced by Sen. Chaffee, covers most of the same ground. The difference is that the Senate bill is more moderate in its funding proposals, while the House bill would violate the balanced budget agreement. It is encouraging, however that the basic principles of ISTEA have been upheld in these bipartisan bills.
More threats to railbanking
Two recent bills would further confuse the vital language of the National Trails System Act, which allows preservation of abandoned railroad corridors through railbanking. We've reported on anti-trail efforts in Indiana in recent issues; Kansas has also been the scene of state legislation to cripple rail to trail conversions.
Both bills are sponsored by Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas who is, ironically, a former world record holder in the mile run. There is at present no indication of what support the bills may garner, nor when, if ever, they will emerge from committee.
H.R. 2438 &endash; Stated purpose: "protection of reversionary property rights" by giving precedence to state laws on property rights.
H.R. 2352 &endash; Requires that local government officials must give approval before an abandoned rail line is designated for a trail use.
$120-131 million proposed for Recreational Trails
While Enhancements and other bike/ped funding have received the most attention from national groups, we are on the verge of important funding for the Recreational Trails Program. Included in both the House and Senate versions of "BESTEA" are provisions for over $100 million in funding.
The Recreational Trails Program, which has been known as the "Symms Act" for its 1991 sponsor, Sen. Steve Symms, allocates revenue from fuel tax to every state for a wide variety of trail projects.
The House version proposes three years of funding at these nationwide levels:
1998 $30 million (average/state: $575,000)
1999 $40 million
2000 $50 million (average/state: $960,000)
The Senate version proposes six years of funding:
1998 $17 million (average/state: $325,000)
1999 $20 million
2000 $22 million
2001 $23 million
2002 $24 million
2003 $25 million (average/state: $480,000)
The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) urges that trails advocates contact their Representatives to support H.R. 2400, BESTEA. CRT co-chairs Dean Tice and Derrick Crandall note that "the program enjoys the active support of the national trails community" and urge prompt and positive action by the House of Representatives.
For more information, contact Denise Coulter at National Recreation & Park Assoc., (703) 858-2184; E-mail: DCOULTER@nrpa.org. On the Web, see www.funoutdoors.com/arc
Update on LWCF
We continue to urge support for both state and federal programs of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Several bills have been introduced this session, including one, HR 1489, that would split $450 million annually between states and the feds. The House appropriations bill, HR 2107, also includes LWCF funding, as does the newest bill, S 1118. Controversy continues over a permanent funding source, how much&endash; if any&endash; to fund the "stateside" program, and whether Alaskan oil and gas royalties can be used.