Congresswoman Lummis elaborates on plan to preserve U.S. trailsWritten by Jennifer Womack
Lummis is co-sponsoring the “Complete America’s Great Trails Act” with Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to protect America’s eight National Scenic Trails, including the Continental Divide Trail that runs through Wyoming.
“This legislation will ensure one of America’s greatest scenic trails, the Continental Divide Trail, will be protected for future generations,” Lummis said in a prepared statement on the legislation. “The bill will provide voluntary incentives for landowners to complete the trail while protecting their property rights and safeguarding Wyoming rich agricultural heritage.”
H.R. 1912 would provide landowners with a tax credit to grant conservation easements and public access easements in half-mile corridors of National Scenic Trails.
“I am proud to work with Wyoming’s agricultural community and private landowners to protect our heritage by encouraging the completion of this important scenic trail corridor,” Lummis added.
During an April 24 interview with the Roundup Lummis elaborated on the legislation. “The trails bill does not make any federal trails designations, it doesn’t mandate any enhancements of current trail protections. The purpose is to provide incentives to landowners to assist in the completion of the national trails corridors.” She said, “Most importantly, participation is 100 percent voluntary.”
Asked whether or not the legislation would create additional trespasses for those landowners along the trail, Lummis said she envisions participants designating areas covered by the easement and those that are private property and not open to the public. Access is a stipulation of the easements that would be written with a land trust of the landowner’s choice.
“There would be no liability,” said Lummis when asked if landowners could be held accountable if someone is injured on the portion of the trail that passes through their private property. “The opportunity to cross the land is not an accepting liability. Even though they’re under the law an invitee, the fact that it has been designated as a federal trail under federal law would prevent the landowner from liability.”
“It’s all voluntary,” stressed Lummis. “If a landowner decides to voluntarily create an easement under the bill they can help craft the restrictions.” She said each conservation easement is unique and catered to the situation at hand.
Lummis said she’s also been asked about the legislation’s impact on the development of transmission lines. She said, “There are no public lands affected because easements can only be made on private lands on a voluntary basis. The only way transmission could be affected is if a private landowner is the one who decides a conservation easement is better use of his or her property than a transmission line.” In that regard Lummis said the legislation also serves to enhance private property rights.