Legislation on American Discovery Trail – FAQ

Q:   How much money are you asking for from the federal treasury to pay for signs?

A:   We are not asking for any money.  We, the American Discovery Trail Society, will pay for the signs.

Q:  Won’t having a long, new trail, like the ADT, further complicate the National Park Service’s already existing problem with deferred maintenance?  How can the NPS take on such a huge, new maintenance responsibility?

A:   The National Park Service will NOT take on any additional maintenance responsibilities if the ADT becomes an official part of the US National Trail System.   The trail already exists, and various jurisdictions currently maintain it.  For example, when the ADT transits a national park, the NPS currently maintains that existing trail.  When the trail exits a National Park and enters a state or country road, the state or county presently maintains those roads.  When it enters a city on a sidewalk, the city presently already maintains that sidewalk.  None of these current arrangements will change.  There will be no new maintenance obligations imposed on the NPS.

Q:  The Feds already own and control too much land in many states.  Why should the Feds take over more land?

A:  Making the ADT an official part of the US National Trail System does not mean that the federal government will take over more land.   The ADT is not owned by anyone.   The trail consists of existing trails or routes currently owned by a range of jurisdictions.   The Feds own national parks; the Agriculture Department owns national forests; but cities, counties, and states own the trails, parks, roads, or byways the ADT transits.  None of that changes.  No ownership of any lands changes if the ADT becomes official.

Q:  Won’t this massive new official trail impede economic growth and development, particularly out West?  If a rancher wants to build a barn or drill an oil well, won’t supporters of the ADT object?

A:  No; it is not the intent of the ADTS to impede any economic projects or developments along or near the trail.   It is not a wilderness trail; it goes through many inner cities;  what’s another building or oil well along the trail?  

In fact, the opposite is likely to happen:  The ADT can boost economic growth by promoting tourism and customers to the cities, shops, stores, and motels along the way.   When the federal government was shut down, a number of state governors recognized the importance of parks to their economy and used state funds to pay national park service employees to keep the parks and trails open. 

Q:  Won’t people claim that a proposed building along the Trail could damage the “viewshed,” and thus launch court cases thwarting construction?  

A:  The draft bill H.R. 4878 has specifically included language stressing that nothing in the bill is intended in any way to impede any economic development.  Sec. 2 (2) (C) states “Nothing in this Act may be construed  to impose or permit the imposition on any landowner on the use of any non-Federal lands without the consent of the owner thereof.”   

Q:  Why establish a new category of trail, “Discovery Trail”?  Why not just label the ADT as one of the existing types, such as “Scenic or Wilderness,” or “Historic” or “Recreational”?

A:  The National Park Service answered this question when it conducted an extensive study of the ADT back in 1994-96.   That study concluded that the ADT would not fit into the wilderness category – It goes through many inner cities and metropolitan areas, e.g., Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati.   It’s not historic since it was planned and established in 1989-90.   The Park Service concluded that creating a third category, “Discovery,” was optimal.  We agree.

Q:  Won’t establishing the third category of “Discovery” open the door to many other new trails and cost a lot?

A:  No.  Bill H.R. 4878 outlines the criteria for becoming a Discovery Trail.  Any new proposed Discovery Trail would have to meet those criteria, and each will be judged on its merits on a case by case basis.

Q:  Why not a “Recreational Trail”?

A:  Recreational trails are generally smaller trails that link cities to nearby sites, or to other trails.   The ADT is different; it unites the entire country from coast to coast, providing a backbone to the trail system that links most of the major national scenic and historic trails. 

Q:  Are there other, important objections to H.R. 4878 and the ADT?

A:  Not really.   Some extreme conservatives fear that the federal government will control too much, but the answers to earlier questions show that the federal government will not take over any more land, or control any more land.   Some worry that the rights of landowners, or hunters,  will be infringed or economic development impeded.   However, the bill text specifically protects those rights. 

Signage for the American Discovery Trail is covered in Section 2305 of S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act of 2019.   The overwhelming support in the Senate by a vote of 92 to 8 and 363 to 62 in the House shows how much support the American Discovery Trail has. This act became Public Law 116-9.