S. 1354

Alaska Trails Act

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 1354, A BILL TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE CHILKOOT NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL AND TO PROVIDE FOR A STUDY OF THE ALASKA LONG TRAIL, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. 

JUNE 23, 2021

Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1354, a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Chilkoot National Historic Trail and to provide for a study of the Alaska Long Trail, and for other purposes.

The Department supports the designation of the Chilkoot National Historic Trail, as provided for by Section 2 of S. 1354.  The Department supports with an amendment the authorization of a feasibility study for designating the Alaska Long Trail as a national scenic trail, as provided for by Section 3 of the bill. 

Section 2 would amend the National Trails System Act (16 USC 1244(a)) to designate the Chilkoot Trail within Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as a National Historic Trail.  The trail would be administered by the Secretary of the Interior and a provision in the bill ensures that the designation of the trail would not affect any authorities provided under Public Law 94-323 (16 USC 410bb et seq), the act that established Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.  S. 1354 also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate with organizations and institutions of higher education in the US and Canada, Alaska Native Corporations, and, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Government of Canada for the purposes of exchanging information, supporting the trail, providing technical assistance, and working to establish an international historic trail. 

National Historic Trails, part of the National Trails System, identify and protect travel routes of national historic significance for public use and enjoyment.  The designation of the Chilkoot Trail as a National Historic Trail is appropriate not only because of the physical artifacts remaining in place on the trail, but also the universal story of struggle, perseverance, and hope that the trail embodies.  The historic and economic impacts of the gold rush are far reaching, and the Klondike legacy is still relevant today.  The trail was traditionally used as a trading route by Tlingit (Alaska Native) and Tagish (Canadian First Nation) tribes and continues to beckon a variety of hikers from local Alaskans exploring their “backyard” to international visitors who are looking to experience a world-class hiking destination.  Already co-managed with Parks Canada, a National Historic Trail designation would highlight both the national and international role that this trail played and continues to play today.  The trail receives 3,500 through-hikers and 12,000 day-hikers originating from Skagway. 

Section 3 would amend the National Trails System Act (16 USC 1244 (c)) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, to conduct a study of the feasibility of designating the Alaska Long Trail as a National Scenic Trail.  The proposed Alaska Long Trail would extend approximately 500 miles from Seward, Alaska to Fairbanks, Alaska.  S. 1354 directs the Secretary to conduct the study in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the State of Alaska, local governments in Alaska, Alaska Native Corporations, and representatives of the private sector, including those that hold Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits. 

National Scenic Trails, another type of trail within the National Trails System, display significant characteristics of the nation’s physiographic regions.  They provide for outdoor recreation and for the conservation and enjoyment of scenic, historic, natural or cultural qualities.  While the Department supports authorizing this feasibility study, we would like to give further consideration to the question of which Federal land management agency is most appropriate to conduct the study, as it would likely involve lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.  We would like to work with the bill sponsor and the Committee on an amendment for that purpose.  Regardless of which agency conducts the study, that agency will be required to consult with all other affected land management agencies, as provided for in the National Trails System Act (16 USC 1244(b)).  

Chairman King, that concludes my statement.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have. 

Was this page helpful?