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S. 1304 - Parks Bills




STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

BEFORE THE

SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

UNITED STATES SENATE 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2007

CONCERNING

S. 1304 – Arizona National Scenic Trail Act

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Administration’s views on S. 1304,a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Arizona Trail as a National Scenic Trail.

The Administration does not object to S. 1304. While the Administration typically does not support the designation of a National Scenic Trail without the completion of a feasibility study, we recognize that the Arizona Trail presents a unique situation.

The Arizona Trail designation is unique because it is located primarily on public land, it is already established for much of its length and it has strong local, regional and state advocates and it offers outstanding recreational opportunities.  For these reasons we do not object to an expedited process in this case and proceeding directly to designation.  We do, however, plan to continue efforts to engage the public in the management of the trail, especially to private land owners that may be affected by the designation.

All but one of the National Scenic Trails designated subsequent to the enactment of the National Trails System Act have undergone a feasibility study prior to enactment. 

However, in the case of the Arizona Trail, because of its unique circumstances, the Administration does not object to directly designating the trail as a national scenic trail.  The Administration would be unlikely, however, to support future legislation to designate National Scenic Trails that bypass requirements under the national Trails System Act to conduct feasibility studies.   A feasibility study allows the public to have a comprehensive look at the effects of designated national scenic trails and provides the public with the opportunity to comment on all aspects of the trail.  Information provided by the public during this review adds value and is useful for the future management of the scenic trail.  A study would also review and recommend the most effective and efficient management of the trail.

Approximately 85% of the trail crosses federal land, 10% crosses State lands, and the remainder of the trail crosses private, municipal or county lands.  The trail was established as a primitive long-distance hiking, horseback, and mountain biking trail that links all of Arizona’s major physiographic zones (the mountains, canyons, deserts, forests, historic sites, and mesas) to local communities and Arizona’s major metropolitan areas.  The Arizona Trail’s significance is found in the diversity of resources, landscapes and recreational opportunities that it represents.

The Arizona Trail was conceived in 1985 as a continuous non-motorized trail from Mexico to Utah.  The Arizona Trail connects Arizona’s north and south borders across mountain ranges and deserts for approximately 807 miles.  In 1993, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Arizona State Parks developed a cooperative agreement to work together to develop this non-motorized trail.  Since then more than 750 miles of trail have been opened to the public, maps and trail resource information have been developed, and routine trail maintenance has been carried out, while efforts continue to open the remaining 57 miles of trail.   An important characteristic of all National Trails is the partnerships they generate.  The Arizona Trail already has strong regional, state and local advocates, all of whom have worked hard at creating and maintaining a trail featuring the incredible natural and cultural diversity of the State of Arizona.   In 1994, the non-profit Arizona Trail Association (ATA) was founded “to coordinate the planning, development, management, and promotion of the Arizona Trail for the recreational and educational experiences of non-motorized trail users.”  If designated by Congress as a National Scenic Trail, the Arizona trail will be administered by the U.S. Forest Service in close coordination with the Arizona Trail Association and any relevant State and local agencies that may wish to help with the Trail.  

National scenic trails are continuous, primarily non-motorized routes of outstanding recreational opportunity.  These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement.   National historic trails commemorate historic and prehistoric routes of travel that are of significance to the entire Nation.   Because of its characteristics, the Arizona Trail is more likely to meet the criteria for a scenic trail rather than an historic trail.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present the Administration’s views on S. 1304.  This completes our statement for the record.