Senate Holds Discussion on Willing Seller Legislation to Assist in the Completion of Nine National Trails

During a Senate hearing yesterday, a key piece of legislation to secure the future of the National Trails System was praised by supporters. S. 169, the National Trail System Willing Seller Act, was introduced in January 2007 by Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
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Pine, Colo. – During a Senate hearing yesterday, a key piece of legislation to secure the future of the National Trails System was praised by supporters. S. 169, the National Trail System Willing Seller Act, was introduced in January 2007 by Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The legislation would allow federal land managers to purchase land from willing sellers for nine national scenic and national historic trails, including the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and will play a major role in the completion and protection of the National Trails System

“This legislation is based on plain old common sense,” said Senator Allard. “If someone wants to sell their land, and the government wants to buy it, they should be able to do so. We need a mechanism that will facilitate the completion of the National Trails System. My legislation would help to protect our nation's trails, while respecting the individual property rights of land owners.”

The willing seller provision will give federal agencies the authority to buy land parcels important to the future of these national trails. The nine affected national trails were authorized by Congress in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but land managers were not given any federal land acquisition authority or even the ability to negotiate with willing sellers. Development and other land use pressures threaten much of the National Trails System, and this bill will allow managers to purchase land to protect the national trails as opportunities arise.

“Congress authorized the construction of the CDT and other national trails, but failed to give the land managers an important tool to actually get the job done,” said Continental Divide Trail Alliance Co-Executive Director Bruce Ward. “The Willing Seller Act corrects this situation and will be useful as we move forward in completing the Trail. We greatly appreciate Senator Allard's strong leadership on this issue.”

Testifying at the hearing, Gary Werner, Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System, thanked Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) for working closely with Senator Allard to craft the legislation and praised the proposed legislation for providing the necessary authority to complete the trails while protecting the rights of property owners.

The benefits to trail users would be enormous. In some cases, trails could be moved off of roads where conditions are unsafe. Overall trail conditions and the integrity of the trails would be improved.

A completed and protected network of national trails will encourage more Americans to take part in physical activities through outdoor recreation and will enable more people to access the rich heritage of historical, cultural and natural resources sustained by the trails.

In March of this year, a similar piece of legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Mark Udall (D-Colo.).
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The Continental Divide Trail was established by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 1978. When complete, the “King of Trails” will be the most significant trail system in the world. Stretching 3,100 miles along the backbone of America from Canada to Mexico, it accesses some of the most wild and scenic places left in the world while conserving the environment and promoting personal well being.

Since 1995, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance has played a central role toward the completion, management and protection of the Trail and it is the voice for unity in the diverse story of the Trail.

For more information about the Continental Divide Trail, call (303) 838-3760 or toll-free 1-888-909-CDTA (2382). Or visit www.cdtrail.org .

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