OPINION: Support the Alaska Long Trail at BLM’s public hearings

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 per year. Our Alaska Long Trail would give all users a new and unique opportunity to experience an exciting healthy adventure with unequaled natural wild lands, North America’s tallest mountains, ocean and sea-life, 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-round 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. In Anchorage, BLM’s hearing for the Alaska Long Trail will be held April 8 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Z.J. Loussac Library. Please come and join the team!

Tony Knowles served as governor of Alaska from 1994-2002 and was the chair of the National Park System Advisory Board from 2009-2017.

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Tony Knowles

Tony Knowles served two terms as Alaska's governor and two terms as Anchorage's mayor. He lives in Anchorage.