Rep. Neguse co-sponsors Continental Divide Trail Completion Act which aims to move iconic trail path from Colorado roadways to wilderness |

Rep. Neguse co-sponsors Continental Divide Trail Completion Act which aims to move iconic trail path from Colorado roadways to wilderness

Suzie Romig
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Caroline Himbert hikes through the desert on the Continental Divide Trail.
Courtesy photo

ROUTT COUNTY — Routt County is home to some of the last remaining unfinalized sections of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Colorado, dubbed the Muddy Pass Gap that follows along Colorado Highway 14 toward Walden, as well two miles alongside U.S. Highway 40 east of Dumont Lake.

For decades, trail advocates and organizations have been trying to reroute and finalize the last sections of the trail along safe, scenic routes and get the trail off high-speed highways. Toward that goal, Rep. Joe Neguse, ranking member of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, reintroduced the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act on Wednesday, March 1.

The goal is completion of the trail before its 50th anniversary in 2028 by acquiring land to eliminate gaps between trail sections and relocating existing portions of the trail where necessary to maximize conservation and enjoyment of the trail corridor, according to Neguse’s office.

The completion act would direct the U.S. secretaries of agriculture and interior to create a dedicated trail completion team to work in coordination with affected stakeholders to complete the necessary planning work to optimize the trail, identify priority tracts for acquisition and work to acquire those lands where possible.

“This bill will expedite the completion of the trail and close existing gaps, ensuring more people can enjoy these outdoor spaces. It is long past time for us to get this done,” said Neguse, whose district includes Routt County.

Additionally, roughly 300 miles of the trail traverses Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.

More than four decades after its creation by Congress in 1978, the trail remains incomplete due to gaps in public lands along more than 160 miles of its overall 3,100-mile route from Mexico to Canada. In those unfinished sections, the trail follows along roads and highways.

“The Continental Divide Trail spans across some of the most scenic, mountainous landscapes in our nation,” Neguse said. “The trail also serves as an economic driver for the rural towns and cities nestled along its route.”

Up to 1,000 recreationists, often solo hikers, pass through Routt County each summer, largely in July and August, on the Continental Divide Trail, passing Dumont Lake and Rabbit Ears Pass going northbound in July or southbound in August, said Dan Carter, trail and lands conservation program manager for the nonprofit Continental Divide Trail Coalition. An estimated 400 northbound hikers pass through Routt County along with about 600 southbound hikers, Carter said, while hundreds of other people hike or bike smaller sections of the trail in the region.

In addition to the nonprofit coalition, the bill has the support of a number of organizations, universities and businesses.

Bill organizers say the Continental Divide Trail 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. The trail’s corridor helps protect the headwaters of the Colorado, Rio Grande, Columbia and Mississippi rivers.

The act states that eminent domain will not be used for acquisitions to complete the trail, and lands may only be acquired by purchase from a willing seller, donation, exchange, or cooperative or easement agreements.

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