American Discovery Trail Act of 2016
STATEMENT OF PEGGY O’DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2608, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE TO PLACE SIGNAGE ON FEDERAL LAND ALONG THE TRAIL KNOWN AS THE “AMERICAN DICOVERY TRAIL”, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
March 17, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2608, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to place signage on Federal land along the trail known as the “American Discovery Trail”, and for other purposes.
The Department would not oppose S. 2608, if amended to make the authority to place signage discretionary rather than mandatory, as explained later in this testimony.
S. 2608 would direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to place signage denoting the American Discovery Trail, which is not part of the National Trail System, on Federal land at points along the trail, as soon as practicable after signage acceptable to the respective Secretary is donated. The bill also prohibits the use of Federal funds for the acquisition of this signage.
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) was proposed in 1990 as a continuous mid-continent, coast-to-coast trail to link metropolitan areas to the nation's major long-distance trails, as well as to shorter local and regional trails. In October 1992, through P.L. 102-461, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility and desirability of adding the ADT to the National Trails System. This study was completed in December of 1995, and submitted to Congress in 1998. The over 6,000-mile route of the ADT, as described in this legislation and mapped in the feasibility study, extends from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
The study found that the ADT could be appropriate for designation as a new class of national trails – National Discovery Trails – separate from National Scenic Trails or National Historic Trails. One of the primary reasons for proposing the establishment of National Discovery Trails would be to address a potential conflict with National Scenic Trails following roads. When the ADT was initially proposed, a guiding principle in identifying the trail’s route was that it be located on public lands and rights-of-way to avoid the acquisition of private land. This meant that the proposed trail often was routed along roads. The National Trails System Act specifically prohibits the use of motorized vehicles along National Scenic Trails. This new class of trails could be located along roadways, if necessary, to make the trails continuous.
Congress has not taken action to authorize a new category of national trails within the national trails system or to designate the American Discovery Trail as part of that national system as the first National Discovery Trail.
In addition, the Department is concerned that the requirement in S. 2608 to place signage denoting the American Discovery Trail on Federal land at points along the trail could compromise Federal land managers’ ability to exercise their discretion with regard to the location of signage and the protection of sensitive resources.
Individual Federal land managers may allow the signage of non-Federal trails upon Federal lands, where appropriate, and in accordance with existing Federal laws, regulations, and policies. However, Federal land managers also may decline a request to allow signage of a non-Federal trail in instances where they believe the signage may have a detrimental impact upon visitor safety or resource protection.
Furthermore, significant portions of the American Discovery Trail are located along roadways. While existing Federal laws and regulations related to the signage of hiking trails along roadways could potentially preclude some conflicts, there are other instances in which the signage of a hiking trail is not specifically prohibited in law, but the Federal land manager may determine that the siting of signage in a particular location is inappropriate.
The Department believes that Federal land managers should retain the ability that they have under current law to determine the appropriateness of signage on Federal lands. For that reason, the Department would not oppose the legislation if it is amended to allow individual Federal land managers the discretion to make the final determination regarding the location or inclusion of signage on Federal lands, consistent with Federal laws, regulations, and policies. We would be happy to provide suggested language to the committee.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.