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Outdoors Infrastructure Receives Big Boost in House, Looks for Support in Senate

Posted by cgiampetro at Jul 09, 2021 01:28 PM |

The INVEST Act was passed through the U.S. House of Representatives with some legislation important to the outdoors — including the Legacy and Roads Trails Act, the Transit to Trails Act, and the Outdoors for All Act. But they are apart of a larger bill that is now in the hands of the Senate.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act, the nation’s currently circulating infrastructure bill which would fund road, bridge and transit projects across the country. We’re excited to report that the package reflects some big wins for the outdoors nationwide. The package encompasses the Legacy and Roads Trails Act, the Outdoors for All Act, and the Transit to Trails Act — all of which are important legislative priorities that WTA has tracked as they’ve moved through Congress.

Funding infrastructure for our trails and public lands is the bottom line for a sustainable trail network. Investments like those passed by the House in this INVEST Act represent vital systems to grow, protect, and maintain our trails.

Seeing these investments solidified by the Senate in their deliberation on the INVEST Act is incredibly important to supporting accessible trails in Washington and beyond. Learn more and take action below.

Image displays a hiker looking off at the mountain line, where there are layers of mountain peaks in front of him.
Trails and roads that access views like this need your support locally and in Washington, D.C. Photo by John D'Onofrio.

TRAIL Funding FOR MANY KINDS OF TRAIL EXPERIENCES

Trails could benefit in a big way from the various pieces of legislation packaged into the House-passed INVEST Act.

  • Legacy and Roads Trails Act: The Legacy and Roads Trail Act is a public funding mechanism that Washington Trails Association has long supported. This legislation provides critical funding to help maintain roads and trails on U.S. Forest Service lands in order to protect endangered species and improve water quality on public lands. It addresses the national backlog of deteriorating infrastructure while targeting projects that protect wildlife habitat and accessible outdoor spaces. This bill was introduced into Congress earlier this year by Washington Rep. Kim Schrier (WA-08). In June, WTA chief executive officer Jill Simmons met with Schrier and other recreation leaders to promote the Act.
  • Transit to Trails Act: This Act seeks to establish a program under the Department of Transportation to provide transportation options to and from underserved communities (urban and rural) to public lands, specifically trails. Like King County's Trailhead Direct — but bigger in scale! When WTA advocacy director Andrea Imler met with lawmakers in Washington D.C. in 2020, this was a piece of legislation she discussed. The Transit to Trails Act ensures that transportation is not a barrier to people seeking access to the outdoors, which supports WTA’s vision for inclusive trails.
  • Outdoors for All Act: The Outdoors for All Act reinstates mandatory dedicated funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) grant program. The ORLP program grants awards to states, districts, and tribes to acquire land and water for recreation purposes or develop new or renovate existing facilities with a priority of empowering underserved groups, providing job training to youth, and establishing partnerships. Aligned with WTA’s Trails Next Door campaign, the Act supports funding for parks and outdoor recreation opportunities in urban and low-income communities.
  • And even more! Scattered throughout the INVEST Act are dedicated funding appropriations that double funding for trails, walking and biking from $850 million per year to $1.75 billion per year. Much of this falls under projects related to active transportation, like Active Transportation Connectivity Grants and funding increases for existing programs like Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails.

A PIECE OF THE PACKAGE

All of this legislation makes up a small part of the larger INVEST Act, the sweeping infrastructure bill being debated in Congress.

The INVEST in America Act is a broad bill designed to make transformational investments in surface transportation. It tackles national funding for America’s roads, bridges, transit, and rail. The Act aims to create economic growth through strong job creation, reduce inequity with intentional investments and programming, and bring transportation infrastructure into the modern world. It is supported by many environmental groups for prioritizing climate resiliency and improving water programs.

As it stands, the INVEST in America Act has passed through the House and must now be considered by the Senate.

Three hikers sit beside each other in front of a snowy mountain peak, with clouds coming in from the right.Hikers enjoy access to the outdoors, up in the clouds. Photo by Katie Fellows.

The importance of infrastructure and beyond

As you can see from the descriptions listed above, the INVEST Act touches on many intersections that WTA has elevated through our campaign work. Whether it be funding the trail work necessary for trail revitalization or elevating opportunities for youth, the INVEST Act and the outdoor recreation bills included in it have far and wide implications to WTA priorities.

Passing bills like those listed above are the reason advocacy is a crucial part of Washington Trails Association’s approach to trails for everyone, forever. WTA has supported many of these pieces of legislation since their first introduction, following them as they have developed through public comment, Congressional adaptations, and more. Some of the same funding sources included in the INVEST Act today were threatened or diverted not long ago.

Without federal support and dedicated funding for the outdoors, access is impossible to maintain. The INVEST Act is therefore a decisive factor in imaging trails in Washington now and for years to come.

Through the House, onto the Senate...

While the House passed the INVEST Act and all the important mechanisms that come with it, the fate of this bill is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate. Now is the time for you to speak up and tell your senators how necessary it is they pass the INVEST Act.

Sign on below to email your senators about this cause.

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