On October 14, the American Recreation Coalition hosted a Recreation Issues Forum on Capitol Hill. The Recreation Forum brought together leaders from the recreation community and outdoor industry as well as Congressional staff to highlight a number of recreation issues and legislative priorities of the outdoor community. American Horse Council vice president of government affairs Ben Pendergrass was one of the invited speakers.
Pendergrass focused on the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (NFSTS Act) (H.R. 845/S.1110), introduced by Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Tim Walz (D-MN) and Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The bill would direct the Forest Service to take several actions to help address the current trail maintenance backlog that is adversely impacting all trail users in many National Forests, including equestrians.
“The Recreation Issues Forum was a great opportunity to talk about the importance of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act to the horse industry and how the bill will improve National Forest trail maintenance and increase access for all American without adding to the federal deficit,” said Pendergrass. “It was also an important chance for leaders in the outdoor community and congressional staff to discuss the best path forward to achieving recreational priorities this Congress.”
In addition to the NFSTS Act, many issues important to all members of the outdoor recreational community were discussed, including the Recreational Trails Program that provides funding for recreational trails and trail-related facilities; the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that provides funds to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water for recreation and the protection of natural resources; as well as the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) that provides the authority for the federal land management agencies to charge fees.
“Since the Forum both the RTP and LWCF have been re-authorized delivering big wins for all recreational users of public land, including equestrians,” continued Pendergrass. “Hopefully we can build on this momentum in 2016 and pass the NFSTS Act.”