Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Opinion: BLM public hearings on Alaska Long Trail next week

The Alaska Long Trail and would be a sustainable economic stimulus for Alaska

Thanks to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s leadership Congress passed legislation to start and fund the federal process to designate the Alaska Long Trail as a National Scenic Trail. Next week the Bureau of Land Management will be conducting a series of public meetings in Alaska to explain the process and get feedback from Alaskans about the project.

The Alaska Long Trail was initiated a couple of years ago by Alaska Trails, a nonprofit organization headed by Steve Cleary, working with longtime trail advocates. It would be a 500-mile overland trail from Fairbanks to Seward passing through lands the vast majority of which are owned and managed by local, state, and federal governments. Many parts of this route already have existing trails. If it is designated by Congress as a National Scenic Trail, it would join the 11 acclaimed National Scenic Trail icons such as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

This designation and support of Congress and all federal agencies could be a key to developing the Alaska Long Trail and would be a sustainable economic stimulus for Alaska. Other National Scenic Trails have up to a million new users a year. Our Alaska Long Trail would give all users a new and unique opportunity to experience an exciting healthy adventure with unequaled natural wildlands, North America’s tallest mountains, ocean and sealife, wild rivers, and unique wildlife of bears, wolves, moose, lynx (and yes, mosquitoes). Alaska residents would doubly benefit not only from using the trail but also from the many new sustainable year around business and employment opportunities it would create.

I would encourage Alaskans to support this extraordinary project. Please contact Alaska Trails at alaska-trails.org to find out more about the Alaska Long Trail and the schedule and location of the BLM hearings. Please come and join the team!

Peninsula BLM hearings will be held in Seward, April 9, 5-7 p.m. at the Gateway Hotel.

Tony Knowles is a former governor of Alaska (1994-2002) and former chair for the National Park System Advisory Board (2009-2017).

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