American Discovery Trail Act of 2017
STATEMENT OF P. DANIEL SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 1573, 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.
February 14, 2018
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1573, 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 does not support S. 1573. We believe it would be unwise to mandate that Federal trail managers place a private organization’s signage on Federal land.
S. 1573 would require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to place signage denoting the American Discovery Trail on Federal land at points along the trail, as soon as practicable after signage acceptable to the respective Secretary is donated. The American Discovery Trail is not a Federally designated trail, but rather a trail coordinated and promoted by the non-profit organization named American Discovery Trail. The organization has done commendable work in bringing public awareness to many of America’s special places, including some lesser known sites.
The American Discovery Trail 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 1992, through P.L. 102-461, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility and desirability of adding the American Discovery Trail to the National Trails System. This study was submitted to Congress in 1998. The over 6,000-mile route of the trail, as 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 American Discovery Trail could be appropriate for designation within a new class of national trails – National Discovery Trails – separate from National Scenic Trails or National Historic Trails. Congress has not taken action to authorize this new category of national trails or to provide any sort of official designation for an American Discovery Trail.
Under current law, Federal land managers have the authority to determine the appropriateness of signage on Federal lands, and 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. The Department believes that the managers of Federal trails should retain this decision making authority. We think it would be highly unusual for Federal land managers to be required by law to allow a non-profit organization to place their organization’s signage on Federal land.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.