November 09, 2021

Neguse Bill to Complete the Continental Divide Trail Moves Through Committee

The legislation would close existing gaps on the CDT, expand access to the outdoors and boost mountain economies

View hearing live HERE. 

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse’s bill to complete the Continental Divide Trail will be considered in the House Natural Resources Committee. The Continental Divide Trail Completion Act, introduced by Neguse in August, directs the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to close existing gaps in the trail by its 50th anniversary in 2028. The bill would expand access to the outdoors by offering more opportunities to thru-hikers and would boost rural economies, known as gateway communities, that run along the trail. 

“I’m thrilled to see my proposal to finally complete the Continental Divide Trail one step closer to becoming a reality,” said Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “Completing the CDT would fulfill a promise that Congress made more than four decades ago, to provide the American people with world-class recreational opportunities spanning the length of the Continental Divide. By expediting completion of the trail and closing existing gaps, we ensure more people can enjoy these beautiful landscapes and we invest in Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and the mountain towns and businesses that rely on visitors for their livelihoods.”

“The significance of the 3,100 mile long CDT cannot be understated: it is the major watershed of the North American continent, it provides a critical corridor for a diversity of wildlife and ecosystems, it showcases the nationally significant features of the Continental Divide and provides endless opportunities for expanding the outdoor recreation economy of the rural Rocky Mountain West,” said Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. “The CDT Completion Act will create a safer, nationally significant and more enjoyable experience for all to access the natural, historical, and cultural features that can be found along the CDT and will ensure the adaptive, shared stewardship of this world-renowned resource for generations to come. CDTC is grateful for the leadership shown by members of Congress like Representative Neguse and Representative Fernandez on this important initiative, and looks forward to working with agency staff, volunteers, partners, and Gateway Communities to make a continuous footpath from New Mexico to Montana a reality.” 

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and is supported by officials, organizations, and localities spanning four states, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the Town of Grand Lake, CO, Lake County, Summit County, Hinsdale County, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Conservation Colorado, Sierra Club, Deuter USA (Longmont, CO), Never Summer Mountain Products (Grand Lake, CO), Salida Mountain Sports (Salida, CO), Simple Lodge & Hostel (Salida, CO), Hinsdale Haute Route (Lake City, CO), and Katabatic Gear (Salida, CO). Read quotes in support and a full list of supporters here. 

Witnesses testifying at today’s hearing include: Tom Medema, Acting Associate Director for Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers, National Park Service; Sandra Watts, Associate Deputy Chief for National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service; and Teresa Ann Martinez, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Continental Divide Trail Coalition.

Read bill text for the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act HERE.

View a map of the trail and gaps to be completed HERE and HERE.

Earlier this year, Congressman Neguse enacted legislation into law to expand Rocky Mountain National Park, an initiative similar to the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act, that instructed the Department of Interior to acquire and protect an additional 40 acres of land in the park.

Background: 

Congress created the Continental Divide Trail in 1978 as part of the National Trails System, a network which spans all 50 states. The CDT is the highest, most challenging, and most remote of 11 National Scenic Trails, running along the Continental Divide through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. 230 miles—7.5% of the entire trail—traverses Colorado’s 2nd District. 

The trail’s corridor helps protect the headwaters of the Colorado, Rio Grande, Columbia, and Mississippi Rivers. However, the trail remains incomplete more than 40 years after its creation due to gaps in public lands along more than 160 miles of its route. In these areas, the CDT is forced to follow along roads to connect one completed section to another. When completed, the CDT will connect an unbroken corridor of more than 2 million acres of public land for hikers and wildlife to safely traverse along their migration routes.