A U.S. Senate committee has unveiled a draft proposal that would end the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which provides money to states to develop and maintain trails, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
On Nov. 4, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its proposed transportation funding authorization bill for the next two years, entitled "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21). The bill specifies what transportation programs are approved for federal funding. The panel is expected to vote on the bill on Nov. 9 before sending it to the full Senate for approval. If it clears the Senate, then it would go to the House for further consideration.
The RTP, which became law in 1991 as part of a federal transportation funding authorization bill, is considered to be one of the most important and beneficial laws for off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders ever passed by Congress.
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman, who had a hand in creating the law in 1991 with BlueRibbon Coalition founder Clark Collins, has stated that abolishing the program would effectively create a tax increase on OHV riders because the RTP funds would no longer be designated for a program that benefits motorized trail users.
Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, was shocked by the committee's proposal.
"Motorcyclists should not be cut short," Allard said. "They pay the gasoline taxes that go to sustain the trails program. Many interests pull from the highway fund and do not pay into it. It becomes akin to a tax increase to the general fund.
"This program was created for trail users and is self-funded by the highway fuel taxes of trail users," Allard said. "Trail users see this program as a very essential part of their chosen form of recreation, and there's no reason to eliminate the program. The RTP pays for itself."
Funds for the RTP come from the federal Highway Trust Fund, and represent a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use. In other words, taxes generated by fuel used for OHV recreation — by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-highway motorcycles and off-highway light trucks — fund the RTP.
The RTP provides funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. The RTP is an assistance program of the U.S. Transportation Department's Federal Highway Administration. The RTP program benefits hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, ATV riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles.
"I urge all concerned riders to contact the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and ask them to support continued funding for the Recreational Trails Program," Allard said. "Money for the program comes from off-highway riders, and should continue to be used to benefit off-highway riders."
The easiest way to contact lawmakers is by going to AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation.
The members of the committee are Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Also, Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)