WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) introduced the bipartisan Continental Divide Trail Completion Act. This legislation would direct the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior to prioritize completion of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) by the trail’s 50th anniversary in 2028.
“The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail not only passes through some of our most incredible natural, historic, and cultural landscapes, but is also a major source of economic opportunity for communities along the trail,” said Heinrich. “With this legislation, we can make the CDT safer and more accessible so that more people can experience and explore our nation’s great outdoors.”
“The Continental Divide Trail provides an unmatched outdoor experience for Montanans and visitors alike,” said Daines. “My bipartisan bill ensures the trail will continue to provide public access and a continuous route will finally be completed!”
“The Continental Divide Trail spans across some of the most scenic, mountainous landscapes in our nation. The trail also serves as an economic driver for the rural towns and cities nestled along its route. Completing the CDT fulfills a promise made over four decades ago to provide the American people with world-class recreational opportunities spanning the length of the Continental Divide,” said Neguse. “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.”
“A completed Continental Divide Trail would further highlight, honor, and preserve the unique cultures and environments along its route in New Mexico,” said Leger Fernández. “This bill will help grow our outdoor recreation economy and support the rural communities along the CDT. Importantly, it also makes sure we respect local landowners, Tribes, Land Grants-Mercedes, Acequias, and other land users. I look forward to co-leading the bill again in the House with Congressman Neguse and my colleagues.”
Designated by Congress as part of the National Trail System in 1978, the CDT stretches more than 3,000 miles and passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The trail follows the Continental Divide and transverses some of the nation’s most treasured natural, historic, and cultural resources.
Since the CDT’s creation, stakeholders have worked tirelessly to complete the trail. Today, more than 160 miles of the trail require diversions onto roadways and highways, and 600 miles of the trail require relocation. Closing these gaps
and relocating these segments will help better maintain the trail’s purpose while ensuring a safer and more enjoyable journey for visitors.
The Continental Divide Trail Completion Act would:
- Direct the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to establish a Trail Completion Team. This team will be responsible for conducting optimal location reviews, identifying land for acquisition, and working with willing sellers to acquire land. It will include U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff working with the CDT Administrator.
- Recognize the value of cooperation between federal land managers, states, Tribes, towns, Native communities, and others. The Continental Divide Trail Completion Act directs USFS and BLM to maintain close partnerships with stakeholders in developing, maintaining, and managing the trail.
- State that eminent domain will not be used to complete the trail. Land to complete the trail may only be acquired from willing sellers.
"As the Continental Divide Trail Coalition enters its second decade of stewardship of the CDT, we could not be more grateful for the leadership of Senator Heinrich and Senator Daines in recognizing this important piece of the CDT Experience. This legislation demonstrates that along the Divide, the CDT is a common ground that has the ability to unify and inspire a shared vision for the future, even despite the many challenges we face in current times and many differing opinions on the solutions. By filling in the gap sections, the CDT will not only become a safer and more accessible experience for all trail travelers, but this mandate for completion will also help to ensure that the original promise made by Congress 44 years ago, of a continuous footpath offering a remote, natural experience from Mexico to Canada along the Divide, becomes a reality,” said Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition.
“The introduction of the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act will connect cultures and landscapes, weaving together the story of New Mexico: from the enchanting Rio Chama, to the centuries old Zuni-Acoma trade routes, the nation's first wilderness area, the Gila, to some of the last and most intact chihuahuan desert landscapes. Thank you Senator Heinrich for your leadership and thank you both Senator Heinrich and Continental Divide Trail Coalition for your commitment to community,” said Ángel Peña, Executive Director of Nuestra Tierra.
“The Town of Silver City has proudly stepped up to the challenge of being a Continental Divide Trail Gateway Community. Significant effort and financial resources have already been invested toward providing hospitable facilities and a welcoming environment to CDT hikers. We recognize these stalwart hikers as great sources of incoming inspiration as well as tourism income. Silver City heartily supports the completion of the CDT because we believe it will only increase the trail’s popularity and drawing power as a recreational resource and an economic benefit to the lucky communities, such as Silver City, it passes through,” said Ken Ladner, Mayor of Silver City, New Mexico.