@Bob Wick (BLM)
NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY
With the help of Senator Lisa Murkowski (THANK YOU!), on December 29th 2022 the Congress directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct the National Scenic Trail feasibility study for the Alaska Long Trail.
The National Scenic Trail (NST) system comprises 11 long trails around the country, including the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. The NST designation opens doors to more federal funding in the future and will be critical to the development of the Alaskan long trail. The designation would also bring more nationwide recognition, leading to increased visitation and business to communities along the route. The NST designation does not set restrictions to specific trail use (motorized can be included), and decisions on the trail use are left with land managers such as municipalities, boroughs, and state and federal agencies.
The feasibility study will be conducted over the course of the next three years. We hope that the study results in a positive recommendation to the Congress to designate the Alaska Long Trail as a National Scenic Trail.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Does NST designation put restrictions on land use?
The NST designation itself does not put special restrictions on land use. Land use policies are set by land managers (for example, municipalities, state agencies, and federal agencies) that oversee specific trail segments.
2. Can motorized use be part of a National Scenic Trail?
Yes, and other NSTs in the country incorporate motorized use (for example, the Continental Divide Trail). In Alaska, the Iditarod National Historic Trail allows motorized use.
3. What is the extent of the federal oversight if the NST designation is approved?
The federal oversight of the entire trail involves coordination and management of the trail across multiple ownerships. A federal agency will be appointed by the Congress as an "administrator" of the trail. Typically, other NSTs in the country have a corresponding nonprofit that acts as a "manager" of the trail in addition to the federal administrator. An example in Alaska is the Iditarod National Historic Trail which is administered by the BLM and stewarded by the nonprofit Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance. As the INHT Trail Administrator, BLM facilitates efforts by volunteers and local, state and federal agencies on behalf of the entire trail.
NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY CRITERIA
Here is the list of criteria that an NST feasibility study has to meet and address, according to the National Trails System Act:
"The feasibility of designating a trail shall be determined on the basis of an evaluation of whether or not it is physically possible to develop a trail along a route being studied, and whether the development of a trail would be financially feasible. The studies listed in subsection (c) of this section shall be completed and submitted to the Congress, with recommendations as to the suitability of trail designation, not later than three complete fiscal years from the date of enactment of their addition to this subsection, or from November 10, 1978, whichever is later. Such studies, when submitted, shall be printed as a House or Senate document, and shall include, but not be limited to:
(1) the proposed route of such trail (including maps and illustrations);
(2) the areas adjacent to such trails, to be utilized for scenic, historic, natural, cultural, or developmental, purposes;
(3) the characteristics which, in the judgment of the appropriate Secretary, make the proposed trail worthy of designation as a national scenic or national historic trail; and in the case of national historic trails the report shall include the recommendation of the Secretary of the Interior's National Park System Advisory Board as to the national historic significance based on the criteria developed under the Historic Sites Act of 1935 (49 Stat. 666; 16 U.S.C. 461);
(4) the current status of land ownership and current and potential use along the designated route;
(5) the estimated cost of acquisition of lands or interests in lands, if any;
(6) the plans for developing and maintaining the trail and the cost thereof;
(7) the proposed Federal administering agency (which, in the case of a national scenic trail wholly or substantially within a national forest, shall be the Department of Agriculture);
(8) the extent to which a State or its political subdivisions and public and private organizations might reasonably be expected to participate in acquiring the necessary lands in the administration thereof;
(9) the relative uses of the lands involved, including: the number of anticipated visitor-days for the entire length of, as well as for segments of, such trail; the number of months which such trail, or segments thereof, will be open for recreation purposes; the economic and social benefits which might accrue from alternate land uses; and the estimated man-years of civilian employment and expenditures expected for the purposes of maintenance, supervision, and regulation of such trail.