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                                                      Calendar No. 205
114th Congress   }                                      {       Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session     }                                      {      114-125

======================================================================



 
        NORTH COUNTRY NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL ROUTE ADJUSTMENT ACT

                                _______
                                

                September 9, 2015.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 403]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 403) to revise the authorized route of 
the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern 
Minnesota and to extend the trail into Vermont to connect with 
the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.
    The Amendment is as follows:
    At the end, add the following:

SEC. 3. NO CONDEMNATION.

    Section 5(a)(8) of the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 
1244(a)(8)) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``No land or 
interest in land outside of the exterior boundary of any Federally 
administered area may be acquired by the Federal Government for the 
trail by condemnation.''.

                                Purpose

    The purpose of S. 403 is to revise the authorized route of 
the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern 
Minnesota and to extend the trail into Vermont to connect with 
the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and for other purposes.

                          Background and Need

    The North Country National Scenic Trail was designated and 
added to the National Trails System on March 5, 1980 (Public 
Law 96-199). The North Country National Scenic Trail (the 
Trail) traverses seven states (North Dakota, Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York). Portions 
of the Trail cross 4 National Parks, 10 National Forests, and 
numerous other Federal, State, and lands administered by local 
governments. The Trail also crosses many miles of privately 
owned lands. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the 
Trail. The comprehensive management plan for the Trail was 
issued in 1982. Currently, about 2,000 miles of trail along the 
4,200 miles of the authorized route have been built.
    The authorized route of the Trail in northeastern Minnesota 
traverses more than 70 miles of black spruce and tamarack 
swamp, extending westward from Jay Cooke State Park, south of 
Duluth, to the Chippewa National Forest, southwest of Grand 
Rapids. Because of the location and difficult environmental 
conditions within the swamp, no portion of this section of the 
Trail has been constructed. For many years advocates for the 
North Country Trail have proposed what has become known as the 
``Arrowhead Reroute'' to avoid this area.
    The NPS conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) to 
select the route for both the Arrowhead Reroute and the Trail 
extension. Public meetings and comment periods were included in 
each process. The NPS signed the Arrowhead Reroute EA in 
September 2004 and the trail extension EA in December 2013.
    The ``Arrowhead Reroute'' would use over 300 miles of 
existing hiking trail, following the north shore of Lake 
Superior and traversing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area 
Wilderness in the Superior National Forest, a region of the 
state known locally as the ``Arrowhead.'' New sections that 
would need to be constructed to complete the reroute in the 
Chippewa and Superior National Forests, Minnesota state parks 
and forests, and county-owned lands would have to be reviewed 
for environmental impacts on critical habitat, endangered 
species, wetlands, and cultural resources. In areas along the 
new trail segment where no public land exists, the NPS would 
seek to develop the Trail on private property by acquiring the 
land in fee or acquiring an easement. The proposed reroute of 
the Trail would increase the total length of the North Country 
National Scenic Trail by about 550 miles for a total of 4,600 
miles.
    S. 403 would modify the route of the North Country National 
Scenic Trail to incorporate the trails in the ``Arrowhead'' and 
exclude the portions crossing through the tamarack swamp (the 
``Arrowhead Reroute''). In addition, the bill would connect the 
North Country National Scenic Trail with the Appalachian 
National Scenic Trail by extending the Trail from its current 
eastern terminus at Crown Point, NY into Vermont. By connecting 
these two scenic trails, hikers would be able to travel from 
the plains of North Dakota across the Great Lakes region to 
Vermont and as far south as Georgia.

                          Legislative History

    In the 113th Congress, Senators Klobuchar, Leahy, Levin, 
Stabenow, Sanders, Franken, Gillibrand, and Baldwin introduced 
a similar bill, S. 2595, on July 10, 2014. A companion bill, 
H.R. 4736, was introduced in the House of Representatives by 
Representatives Nolan, Welch, Peterson, Walz, Petri, Ellison, 
McCollum, and Paulsen on May 22, 2014.
    H.R. 799, a companion bill to S. 403, was introduced in the 
House by Representative Nolan and nine others on February 5, 
2015.
    S. 403 was introduced by Senators Klobuchar, Leahy, 
Franken, Sanders, Stabenow, Gillibrand, Baldwin, and Peters on 
February 5, 2015. The Subcommittee on National Parks held a 
hearing on the bill on June 10, 2015.
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open 
business session on July 30, 2015, and ordered S. 403 favorably 
reported as amended.

                        Committee Recommendation

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on July 30, 2015, by a majority voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 
403, if amended as described herein.

                          Committee Amendment

    During its consideration of S. 403, the Committee adopted 
an amendment to prohibit the use of condemnation in the 
acquisition of land or interest in land for construction of the 
trail.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    Section 1 contains the short title, the ``North Country 
National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act.''
    Section 2 updates the length of the trail from 3,200 miles 
to 4,600 miles and replaces the official map of the authorized 
route of the trail.
    Section 3 prohibits the use of condemnation to acquire land 
or interest in land outside of the exterior boundary of any 
Federally administered area.

                   Cost and Budgetary Considerations

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

S. 403--North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act

    S. 403 would revise the route of the North Country National 
Scenic Trail, which currently runs through seven states from 
New York to North Dakota. Specifically, the bill would connect 
the trail to the Appalachian Scenic Trail in Vermont, adding 
about 400 miles to its overall length. The bill also would 
clarify that the federal government may not use condemnation to 
acquire land for the trail.
    Based on information provided by the National Park Service, 
which administers the trail, and assuming appropriation of the 
necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing S. 403 would 
cost about $5 million over the 2016-2020 period. Most of that 
amount would be spent to acquire private land (or easements on 
that land) along the new trail segment. CBO estimates that 
ongoing costs to develop, manage, and maintain the added 
property would be negligible. Enacting the bill would have no 
effect on revenues or direct spending; therefore, pay-as-you-go 
procedures do not apply.
    S. 403 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Marin Burnett. 
The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Evaluation

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 403. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 403, as ordered reported.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    S. 403, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        Executive Communications

    The testimony provided by the National Park Service at the 
June 19, 2015, National Parks Subcommittee hearing on S. 403 
follows:

     Statement of Victor Knox, Associate Director, Park Planning, 
    Facilities, and Lands, National Park Service, Department of the 
                                Interior

    Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for 
the opportunity to appear before you today to present the 
Department of the Interior's views on S. 403, to revise the 
authorized route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in 
northeastern Minnesota and to extend the trail into Vermont to 
connect with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and for 
other purposes.
    The Department supports enactment of S. 403. This 
legislation would make two critically important improvements to 
the North Country National Scenic Trail: it would reroute a 
portion of the trail in Minnesota around dense swampland, and 
it would link this trail to the Appalachian Trail.
    S. 403 would amend section 5(a)(8) of the National Trails 
System Act to revise the route of the trail in northeastern 
Minnesota and extend the trail beyond its current terminus in 
New York eastward into Vermont, increasing the total length of 
the trail from approximately 4,000 miles to approximately 4,600 
miles. We note that although the legislated length of the trail 
is 3,200 miles, this figure was based upon estimates at the 
time of the passage of the bill that authorized the trail, and 
more accurate mapping has since shown the actual mileage to be 
closer to 4,000 miles.
    The North Country National Scenic Trail was authorized by 
Congress in 1980 to provide superlative outdoor recreation 
opportunities and conservation of nationally significant 
scenic, historic, natural and cultural qualities along the 
trail corridor, to provide a premier trail experience, and to 
encourage and assist volunteer citizen involvement in the 
planning, development, maintenance and management of the trail. 
The trail, which is one of six designated National Scenic 
Trails administered by the National Park Service, spans much of 
the northern United States, stretching from North Dakota to New 
York.
    The current authorized route of the trail in northeastern 
Minnesota traverses approximately 93 miles of black spruce and 
tamarack swamp, extending westward from Jay Cooke State Park 
south of Duluth, to the Chippewa National Forest southwest of 
Grand Rapids. Because of the location and difficult 
environmental conditions within the swamp, no portion of this 
section of the trail has been constructed. Approximately 
seventy percent of the proposed revision--referred to as the 
Arrowhead Reroute--consists of three existing hiking trails: 
the Superior Hiking Trail, the Border Route Trail, and the 
Kekekabic Trail. These trails, which total approximately 400 
miles, follow the north shore of Lake Superior and traverse the 
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National 
Forest. The remaining portion of the Arrowhead Reroute--
approximately 173 miles--would be new trail located over a 
combination of public and private lands. The net total increase 
in the Minnesota portion of the North Country National Scenic 
Trail would be approximately 480 miles.
    Since 1987, Minnesota hiking groups have repeatedly asked 
the NPS to study the revised route. In response to these 
requests, the NPS conducted the Northeastern Minnesota Route 
Assessment between 1999 and 2004. In 2003 and 2004, the 
National Park Service held public meetings in Duluth, Ely, 
Grand Rapids, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Public comments 
reflected broad overall support for the Arrowhead Reroute, and 
strong support among the affected public agencies and 
jurisdictions. The plan and environmental assessment were 
approved by the NPS on September 30, 2004.
    The extension of the trail route into Vermont would add 
approximately 66 miles to the North Country National Scenic 
Trail, 40 of which are already existing trails. The addition 
would extend from the trail's current terminus near Crown 
Point, New York, east to a point to be determined along the 
Long Trail--a National Recreation Trail in Vermont. The Long 
Trail then connects to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail at 
Maine Junction just east of Rutland, Vermont.
    In the fall of 2009, the National Park Service began a 
study of the potential extension of the North Country National 
Scenic Trail in Vermont. In February 2010, three public 
meetings were held to announce the study and present conceptual 
corridors. Additional meetings were held with key stakeholders 
in October 2011. A public meeting to review the draft report 
was held on May 21, 2012. Public comments, and written and 
electronic responses, reflected broad overall support. The 
Feasibility Study Corridor Plan and Environmental Assessment 
for Addison County, Vermont, was approved by the NPS on 
December 16, 2013.
    The NPS anticipates the cost of constructing and 
maintaining the Arrowhead reroute and the Vermont extension of 
the North Country National Scenic Trail would be manageable 
because the work would be done primarily by volunteers using 
hand tools, and current NPS staff would provide route planning 
and support for the volunteers who would help develop and 
maintain the path.
    As an example, the North Country Trail Association and 
partners have committed to developing the connecting trail 
segments that will be needed between the end of the Kekekabic 
Trail and the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota. Funding 
would be needed to supply trail markers, signage, tools, 
equipment, and materials. Recent average expenditures for 
volunteer supplies have cost the North Country National Scenic 
Trail approximately $60,000 per year. The net increase of 
approximately 546 miles to the current trail would increase 
operational costs by approximately $7,000, split between NPS 
support and that independently generated by the trail chapters 
and affiliates. The NPS portions could be accommodated within 
the trail's current budget.
    The portions of the North Country National Scenic Trail 
that have yet to be built have not been laid out in detail. 
Rather, the studies identified respective corridors several 
miles wide within which the trail would eventually be laid out. 
The flexibility provided by these corridors would allow the NPS 
and its partners to design routes that will minimize the amount 
of private land involved.
    Public Law 111-11, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act 
of 2009, provides authority for Federal agencies to acquire 
lands or interests in lands from willing sellers for the North 
Country National Scenic Trail. As a National Scenic Trail based 
upon strong public-private partnerships and engaged volunteers, 
there is an opportunity to implement the proposed re-route and 
extension through a variety of actions and expenditures. 
Options for allowing access range from outright donation, to 
easements and access agreements facilitated by partner 
organizations, to fee simple acquisition from willing sellers. 
However, it is the intention of the NPS to pursue donations, 
easements, and agreements to ensure access whenever possible. 
Consequently, the NPS is unable to estimate land acquisition 
costs. However, efforts would be made to keep Federal 
expenditures to a minimum.
    Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be glad 
to answer any questions that you or other members of the 
subcommittee may have.

                        Changes In Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
the bill S. 403, as ordered reported, are shown as follows 
(existing law proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black 
brackets, new matter is printed in italic, existing law in 
which no change is proposed is shown in roman):

                     THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT

Public Law 90-543

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


    Sec. 5. (a) National scenic and national historic trails 
shall be authorized and designated only by Act of Congress. 
There are hereby established the following National Scenic and 
National Historic Trails:

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

          (8) The North Country National Scenic Trail, a trail 
        of approximately [thirty-two hundred miles, extending 
        from eastern New York State] 4,600 miles, extending 
        from the Appalachian Trail in Vermont to the vicinity 
        of Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, following the 
        approximate route depicted on the map identified as 
        [`Proposed North Country Trail-Vicinity Map' in the 
        Department of the Interior `North Country Trail 
        Report', dated June 1975] `North Country National 
        Scenic Trail, Authorized Route' dated February 2014, 
        and numbered 12 649/116870. The map shall be on file 
        and available for public inspection in the office of 
        the Director, National Park Service, Washington, 
        District of Columbia. The trail shall be administered 
        by the Secretary of the Interior. No land or interest 
        in land outside the exterior boundaries of any 
        federally administered area may be acquired by the 
        Federal Government for the trail except with the 
        consent of the owner of the land or interest in land. 
        No land or interest in land outside of the exterior 
        boundary of any Federally administered area may be 
        acquired by the Federal Government for the trail by 
        condemnation.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                                  [all]