Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Washington that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Expansion of the Pacific Northwest Trail and the Lower Columbia Water Trail are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state of Washington, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Washington and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Washington highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Pacific Northwest Trail - Olympic Discovery Trail Convergence
Along 1,200 miles of recreational pathways that begin in Glacier National Park and culminate on the Pacific Coast of Washington state, the Pacific Northwest Trail ties together national, state, and local trails, including the 120-mile Olympic Discovery Trail, constructed along the historic route of the Pacific Railroad line.
Traversing the lowlands of the northern Olympic Peninsula and ending near Cape Alava on the Pacific Coast, the Olympic Discovery Trail currently has about 40 miles of paved surface. This segment is already providing outstanding recreational opportunities for hikers; bicyclists; and in some areas, equestrians. It runs over railroad trestles, through agricultural land, and along the saltwater coastline, giving users access to a number of different outdoor environments and connecting the cities of Sequim and Port Angeles to the Sequim Bay Area.
An additional six-mile stretch of hard-pack gravel trail connects Port Townsend with the larger trail network. In the long term, the state plans to acquire and build out the entire 120 miles of the trail. Doing so will provide residents all along the trail system access to more outdoor recreational opportunities in more parts of the state.
Lower Columbia Water Trail
The Lower Columbia River Water Trail is a well-established paddleboat trail that stretches from the Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean along 146 miles of one of North America's longest rivers. The trail is managed by the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership — a stewardship organization focused on coastal-habitat restoration and environmental-education programs.
There are currently negotiations for another water trail upstream along part of the Columbia between Chief Joseph Dam and Rocky Reach Dam. The ultimate goal is to create a water trail along the entire length of the Columbia River through Washington. The state champions the water-trail extension and also supports the use of Dalles, John Day, and McNary dams as portage routes for boaters along the trail. Designation of the Lower Columbia as a national water trail would raise its profile, draw more tourists and recreationists, and accelerate its completion.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. On the Pacific Northwest Trail, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Department of Transportation, recreation and conservation organizations, and tribes to define, design, and acquire key segments of the trail. The department could also designate the Lower Columbia Water Trail as a National Water Trail.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.