Complete America’s Great Trails Act would encourage trail easements

July 11, 2009

THE AMERICAN HIKING SOCIETY urges you to contact your Representative and encourage them to support HR 1912, the “Complete America’s Great Trails Act,” a bill introduced by Rep. Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Lummis (R-WY) designed to protect some of the most special trails in America.

America’s longest and most protected trails, like the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and brand-new Arizona National Scenic Trail, all cross private lands. Many landholders graciously allow hikers to cross their lands— but each acre of private land represents a potential break in the continuity of these great trails.

The Complete America’s Great Trails Act would provide a tax credit to private landowners who grant conservation easements to National Scenic Trails. Private landowners would have a new incentive to allow trail users to pass through their property, and establish a guaranteed corridor that protects the continuity of the trails.

During these challenging financial times, it is important to mention that HR 1912 requires no direct spending from the federal government, provides a significant tax break to land owners, and helps ensure that America continues to benefit from our incredible trail resources.

See the sample letter below; AHS irges supporters to personalize the letter and send it to your Representative:

Complete America's Great Trails Act (HR 1912)

Dear Colleague,

National Scenic Trails connect America's greatest places. From Yellowstone to the Everglades, these eight trails cross 24 states and 112 Congressional Districts. Unfortunately, there are missing links in all but one of these National Scenic Trails, and all trails are threatened by encroachment from development. Complete America's Great Trails Act will provide private property o.wners with incentives to dedicate public access and conservation easements in order to close gaps in these great trails and protect them from development.

Please join us by cosponsoring this legislation to establish a voluntary program to complete America's great trails. When the Appalachian Trail was established by statute in 1968, it followed remote ridgelines from Maine to Georgia. Today, though the trail is complete, much of the land surrounding it is under tremendous development pressure. Complete America's Great Trails Act would give landowners an incentive to protect their land forever, and protect the environs of the first great trail in America. Residents of Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and the Boston metropolitan areas are within a two hour drive ofthe Appalachian Trail-an easy day or weekend trip. We must protect this trail to provide recreational opportunities in an increasingly connected and congested megalopolis.

The Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail traverse some of the wildest, most scenic country in America. From the Sierra Nevadas to Glacier National Park, these trails cross terrain of unrivaled ruggedness and solitude. Yet they are missing numerous links, and in some places, like Southern California, face development pressure. Complete America's Great Trails Act will ensure that residents of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, and surrounding communities can enjoy these trails for generations to come. Moreover, this bill will provide rural landowners with a valuable new tool to protect their ranches and farms.

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is designed to run from the mouth of the Potomac to the headwaters of the Potomac, connecting George Washington's birthplace at Pope's Creek with his plantation at Mount Vernon and with historic sites like Harper's Ferry. Yet this trail is incomplete: without this legislative action we will not compiete this trail to connect the home sites of the most prominent of our nation's founding fathers.

Other National Scenic Trails may be less well known but no less spectacular, and include the Florida National Scenic Trail, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and North Country National Scenic Trail, which traverse places as varied as Wisconsin's moraine and Florida's vast Everglades.

Complete America's Great Trails Act will connect these trails by providing landowners with the voluntary opportunity (not a mandate) to receive a tax credit for placing their land in conservation easement along these scenic trail corridors with a public access easement for the trail. Please join us in supporting this important legislation. Please contact Zack Fields at become a cosponsor.

For more information see the American Hiking Society page at

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