In the past few weeks, several Washington-based think tanks have attempted to paint the Recreational Trails Program as a rentier program, that is, an unearned benefit simply taken from the federal Highway Trust Fund without contributing funds to it.
That is a blatant mischaracterization.
The RTP was created on a bipartisan basis in 1991 to provide funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. Funds for the RTP come from taxes generated by fuel used for off-highway vehicle recreation — by off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and off-highway light trucks.
As an OHV rider, every time you fill your machine’s tank, you send money to the trust fund and, subsequently, to the trails program. In other words, (much of) what you pay is returned to recreationists through the RTP.
The RTP provides concrete benefits that drive local economies and provide recreational opportunities for millions of off-highway-vehicle riders, who pay an estimated $170 million annually into the trust fund. In fact, OHV users pay more into the fund than all recreationists – motorized and non-motorized -- take out of it.
The structure of the program ensures that RTP projects address local needs in the most efficient manner possible.
Before the recreational trails program, OHV riders were paying into the trust fund while receiving no funding for recreational trails. To prevent this from occurring again in 2015, we are working with a broad coalition of recreationists and members of Congress to ensure the RTP is included and strengthened in the coming reauthorization of the nation’s highway and transit bill.
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