Some of the staunchest defenders of the Alaska's historic Iditarod Trail were far from home turf this week as they journeyed to Washington, D.C. to pick up a "Partners in Conservation" awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The federal agency said it wanted to recognize the Iditarod National Historic Trail Centennial Partnership for completion of a five-year-long commemoration of the 2,400-mile trail that pushed both public and private organizations to step up efforts to protect the historic mail route from Seward to Nome.
Typically, the Iditarod race trail is described as about 1,100 miles. The national historic trail includes of northern route, southern route (the race alternates routes every year) and an array of offshoot routes
The partnership, according to a press release, was responsible for "innovative programs (that) include trail-based K-12 teacher training for educating students in public land stewardship; education; rural community micro-grants for trail upgrades; community education efforts, including a dogsled-based community outreach initiative; and funding to build six new trail public safety cabins and public easements on the trail — more than the State of Alaska has dedicated at any other time."
The Iditarod Trail each year is the stage for the Iron Dog, the world's longest and toughest snowmachine race; the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the demanding human-powered endurance race; and, of course, the world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race every March.
The partnership included representatives from American Trails, the Iditarod Trail Blazers, the Iditarod Trail Committee, the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.