President Obama's proposed budget slashes off-highway trail funding with potentially dire results
Many off-highway motorized trails in America's national forests could deteriorate dramatically or even disappear under the new federal budget for 2011 proposed by President Barack Obama to Congress on February 1, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
Under the proposal, which must by accepted by Congress before it becomes law, funding for the U.S. Agriculture Department's Capital Improvement and Maintenance (CIM) program would be slashed by $100 million from the $538 million appropriated for the current fiscal year, which began October 1, to $438 million for the next fiscal year.
"This could be disastrous for off-highway motorcycle riders because CIM program money is used for the improvement, maintenance and operation of U.S. Forest Service roads, trails and recreational support," said Ed Moreland, the AMA's vice president for government relations.
Moreland notes that in explaining the reduction, President Obama's administration says that it wants to focus the Forest Service on "road decommissioning, erosion control, watershed health and forest restoration."
"Very little of the proposed CIM budget supports trail-building or maintenance," Moreland said. "This is another way to limit trail-riding opportunities for families, the disabled and others who enjoy the beauty of our federal lands on motorized vehicles.
"The truth is that underfunded forest managers will find it more expedient to close trails rather than maintain them with this plan," Moreland said. "Proper funding of maintenance programs are crucial to the administration's stated goals of erosion control, watershed health and forest restoration."
The administration's budget proposal is also disturbing because it comes at a time when the Forest Service is creating a new planning rule to manage the 193 million acres it controls nationwide. The Forest Service says it is starting the process guided by the principles of restoration, conservation and protection of ecosystems. This proposal could shut out off-highway riding.
The AMA strongly advises its members and all other off-highway vehicle riders to contact their federal elected officials and urge them to oppose any cut in the U.S. Agriculture Department's capital improvement and maintenance budget.
Contact information for all federal elected officials can be found at AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation, then enter a zip code in the "Find your Officials" box. Additionally, a prewritten e-mail is available to send to federal elected officials immediately by following the "Take Action" option.