Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Support of National Scenic Trails There was a front page article in the Seattle Times yesterday on the prospects of the Pacific Northwest Trail becoming our newest National Scenic Trail if the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 becomes law. The same bill also contains a provision for the creation of the New England National Scenic Trail. As someone who hikes frequently and loves the trails of both my home state New Hampshire and adopted state Washington, I couldn't be happier about the prospects of two new great long distance trails traversing my favorite hiking haunts.

Most Americans- folks from all walks of life support these trails. And it would seem that they are pretty non-controversial, right? Well, you'd never know it based on some of the idiotic posts on the Seattle Times article. Most of the drivel came from far right kooks convinced that the National Trail Act is a land grab or yet another way the Federal government is undermining a state's rights. Far from it! Most of the land that the trail traverses is already public land. Where it traverses private lands, the owners have consented to its placement there granting an easement. The owner does not relinquish his right to do what he pleases (within the confines of the law of course) with the rest of his property. And land grab? All that is purchased for a national trail in most cases is just a narrow corridor. Once again only from willing sellers and at fair-market value.

The National Parks Service has jurisdiction over the trail but maintains a very small role. Local land managers of lands that the trail traverses still make the land use decisions for those properties. Land managers work together- and that is a good thing- but the trail and surrounding lands are by and far managed by local people. And there is a huge amount of private participation in the form of financial donations and trail work. Most of the National Scenic Trails have private conservation groups working on their behalf-these groups are not funded by Congress, but by private citizens like you and me. So, will the anti-conservation, anti-trails, anti-public lands kooks stop sipping the kool aid for minute and actually do a little research on what they are so against? And then perhaps actually get out on one of these trails and see just what a great asset they are. Far better than another race track, mall, casino, and second-home development I assure you!

(photo- granddaddy National Scenic Trail, the Appalachian Trail)

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