Late yesterday, the House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Richard Nolan (D-MN) that extends the North Country National Scenic Trail from Crowne Point, NY into Addison County, linking it to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail via Vermont's Long Trail.
The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST), established in 1980, is one of eleven designated National Scenic Trails administered by the National Park Service. It currently links scenic, natural, historic, and cultural areas across seven states stretching from North Dakota to New York.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) extends from Georgia to Maine, traversing Vermont.
Click here to view a National Park Service map showing the location of both national trails.
"It is always a good day when you are hiking in the Green Mountains," said Rep. Welch. "With Vermont hosting both the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail, Vermonters have a rich tradition of trail-hiking. Connecting the North Country Trail to the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail will provide Vermonters with even more opportunities for hiking, recreation, tourism, and economic development."
Click here to view Rep. Welch's remarks delivered during House debate on the bill.
In addition to extending the NCNST into Vermont and connecting it to the ANST via the Long Trail, the bill also incorporates more than 400 miles of existing Minnesota trails into the system.
"The Green Mountain Club fully supports the connection of the NCNST to the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont," said Michael DeBonis, Executive Director of the Green Mountain Club. "As the maintainer and protector of the oldest long distance hiking trail in the nation, GMC is excited about the opportunity to expand hiking opportunities in the state. We thank Congressman Welch for his leadership supporting Vermont's recreation resources and providing more opportunities for residents and visitors to get out and experience the beauty of Vermont's mountains and valleys."
"Federal recognition of this trail's value is energizing for the conservation and recreation sectors," said Jamie Montague, the Executive Director of the Middlebury Area Land Trust. "It validates the importance of working with both a grassroots and nation-wide approach on access to public lands. The demonstration of bipartisan support for NCNST reinforces that access to nature is a right for all, regardless of political, economic, or cultural identities."
The Welch-Nolan bill now goes to the Senate for approval. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate which is cosponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders.
The legislation has the support of environmental and conservation groups as well as the communities through which the trail extension will pass.