Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced he has introduced the Complete America's Great Trails Act (S.1160) -- legislation that would help expand and preserve America's national trail system by giving a tax credit to landowners who voluntarily make land contributions towards the completion of National Scenic Trails.
In Connecticut, there are portions of two National Scenic Trails -- the Appalachian Trail, which extends 52 miles across the state from Salisbury in the north to Sherman in the south, and the New England Trail, which extends 117 miles across the state from Suffield in the north to Guilford in the south.
"This legislation would help preserve and expand a unique aspect of America's natural landscape," Blumenthal said. "By rewarding landowners who donate their property to the national trail system, this legislation will strengthen the links between these awe-inspiring landmarks and add opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. National scenic trails need better protection which this bill will afford."
Under Blumenthal's legislation, landowners who voluntarily make land contributions towards the completion of National Scenic Trails would get a tax credit equal to the fair market value of the portion of land. The legislation would also order the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study measuring the efficacy of the tax credit in extending and improving the conservation of these trails.
"Most people assume that when a trail is designated as a national scenic trail it is "protected', but in a state like Connecticut where much of the New England Trail is hosted by private landowners, that is not the case," said Eric Hammerling, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. "The Complete America's Great Trails Act would provide a real incentive to landowners who wish to protect the path of a national scenic trail and sustain the health, recreation, economic, community, and other benefits of these special trails forever."
Administered by the National Park Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Scenic Trails span 18,249 miles across 30 states and the District of Columbia and host millions of visitors each year. Since 1968, the total number of trails has grown from only the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails to 11 culturally significant national trails.