Daines Pushes to Complete Continental Divide Trail for 50th Anniversary
In 1978, hiking boots were weighed in pounds, not ounces. A fledgling company, Early Winters of Seattle, had recently started selling the first Gore-tex tent and jacket. Maps were paper and the only "real" backpack had an external aluminum frame.
It was the same year the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail was officially recognized by Congress as part of the National Trail System, stretching from Montana through New Mexico. It was just six years after young through hiker Eric Ryback published a book about the "first trip" down the Divide, cobbling together a route using a handful of established trails and dirt roads.
Ryback's inspirational accomplishment would later be lost in controversy when he was challenged for hitchhiking along an earlier trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. But the CDT would go on to become the granddaddy of American trails, attracting hundreds of "through hikers" every year.
However, portions of the CDT have changed little as the CDT approaches its 50th anniversary.
This week, GOP Senator Steve Daines and Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico are re-introducing a bill directing the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to complete the trail by 2028.
“Completing the Continental Divide Trail will support Montana jobs, boost economic development for our local gateway communities, and encourage cooperation between federal land managers, states, Tribes, towns, and more. -Sen. Steve Daines
Daines says even though stakeholder groups have worked "tirelessly" to complete the trail, there are still 160 miles of the CDT that require hikers to divert onto roads and highways, and 600 miles of the trail require relocation.
The bill promotes cooperation to complete the CDT, involving states, tribes, and towns as well as federal agencies. Daines emphasizes it will NOT involve the use of the power of eminent domain to complete trail sections.