The Arizona Trail | The most significant threat to rural Arizona

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You will not believe what we found in the Arizona National Scenic Trail Comprehensive Plan.

The Arizona Trail is an 800-mile non-motorized trail that traverses Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It’s one of Arizona’s prized destinations for many of Arizona’s residents and serious adventurers. The idea was developed and promoted by local outdoor enthusiast Dale Shewalter in 1985. Later, in 2009 the Arizona Trail was designated a National Scenic Trail under the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. The Arizona Trail wasn’t completed until late 2011.

Today, federal land managers are getting ready to introduce a Comprehensive Management Plan for the Arizona National Scenic Trail, and this plan could erase many motorized roads off the map. This is possibly the most significant threat to motorized access, agriculture, and mineral operations Arizona has ever seen.

Researching the Arizona Trail Comprehensive Management Plan

The Arizona Trail Comprehensive Management Plan will be used as a guide for managing the Arizona Trail for the next 10-15 years. Likewise, it will be used in other local land management processes such as travel management and resource management.

According to the USDA Forest Service,

“It will guide the long-term administration and management of federal lands within the corridor, and on non-federal lands where the Arizona Trail exists within the federally managed right-of-way or easements, or where it is managed through intergovernmental or cooperative agreements.”

“We need a comprehensive plan to guide the long-term administration and management of the Arizona Trail as a
single entity and to represent an “all lands” shared vision for trail connectivity, stewardship, and services
along the length of the trail across all jurisdictions.”

The public scoping letter tells the goals, objectives, and practices of the management plan, and it contains some stunning revelations.

  1. The Forest Service is proposing a 1/2 mile easement on either side of the trail to protect the scenic quality.
  2. The Forest Service will include all connecting non-motorized trails that meet the values of the Arizona Trail in the management plan. These trails will fall under the same planning procedures.
  3. The Forest Service will close all roads that cross or travel adjacent to the Arizona Trail and connecting non-motorized trails or within the 1-mile wide easements of those trails.
  4. The Forest Service will prohibit any new mineral exploration and install controlled use stipulations on current mineral rights.
  5. The Forest Service will prohibit heavy mechanical equipment off of designated roads to cut fire lines.
  6. Require the use of low impact fire suppression techniques. (No fire retardant)
  7. Prioritize patented claims and other private lands for federal land acquisition along the trail.
  8. Expand wilderness and protected areas adjacent to the trail.
  9. Impose an easement over non-federal land.

The Arizona Trail Comprehensive Plan puts itself above all other state and federal laws. It will force undue burdens on private property, small scale mining, agriculture, water rights, and many other traditional aspects of Arizona. All land within the 1-mile wide Arizona Trail corridor and all connecting trails will be vigorously protected as if it’s a wilderness area.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail will create 800 square miles of protected area plus the corridors of all connecter trails included in the plan. The amount of protected area is not the problem. The problem is its configuration.

A straight line, crossing the state from north to south, plus trails that spider from the main trail, is laid out in such a way that will cut off motorized access in many areas of the state. Portions of the Arizona Trail are currently located on motorized roads. According to the National Trails System Act, the Arizona Trail could be relocated but only with an act of congress.

Get ready, folks, because this is going to rough.

To view the USDA Forest Service project page CLICK HERE.

Eminent domine and The National Trails System Act

Sounds cool, right? Not really. The National Trails System Act gives the National Park Service the authority to designate federally protected, non-motorized trails. National Scenic, National Historic, and National Recreation trails are administered by the National Park Service and managed by various other federal agencies including state and local agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, and others.

Section 7 of the act gives the secretary authority to claim eminent domain over private property and take land from private owners and states. The act reads as follows:

(g) The appropriate Secretary may utilize condemnation proceedings without the consent of the owner to
acquire private lands or interests, therein pursuant to this section only in cases where, in his judgment, all reasonable efforts to acquire such lands or interest therein by negotiation have failed, and in such cases he shall acquire only such title as, in his judgment, is reasonably necessary to provide passage across such lands: Provided, That condemnation proceedings may not be utilized to acquire fee title or lesser interests to more than an average of one hundred and twenty-five acres per mile. Money appropriated for Federal purposes from the land and water conservation fund shall, without prejudice to appropriations from other sources, be available to Federal departments for the acquisition of lands or interests in lands for the purposes of this Act. For national historic trails, direct Federal acquisition for trail purposes shall be limited to those areas indicated by the study report or by the comprehensive plan as high potential route segments or high potential historic sites. Except for designated protected components of the trail, no land or site located along a designated national historic trail or along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail shall be subject to the provisions of section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 1653(f)) unless such land or site is deemed to be of historical significance under appropriate historical site criteria such as those for the National Register of Historic Places.

Keep in mind, this plan PRIORITIZES land acquisition as a solution to connect the trail segments. At the same time, this plan prioritizes realigning the Arizona Trail to avoid endangered species habitat and other sensitive areas.

The federal government’s growing estate.

The federal government’s growing estate is incredible. Simply put, the federal government can’t manage it all. The outright and deliberate ignorance of the constitution, states’ rights, and federal dominance are appalling only when you understand what the founding fathers intended.

Our founders never aimed to lock this land up, take private property, or preserve the scenic quality. Today’s notation of “public lands” is false, misleading, and contradictory to the same constitution that limits the power of government. If we don’t demand fewer regulations, open acquisition of federal land, and state control, the federal government will enslave us just as our founders predicted.

They knew that if the government could own and control more land than the people, then a bureaucrat thousands of miles away in DC would be making decisions in Arizona; they called it Federal Dominance. The framers intended for us to have local representation, and therefore their solution was to cede land to American settlers.

The goal was for We The People to own more land than the government. This would effectively establish individual sovereignty, states sovereignty, local representation, and later paired with the trust land system, would create a safe, educated society. This open acquisition of land is what made the beginning stages of the American experiment the greatest, most prosperous form of equality the world has ever seen.

Environmental protection is erasing and concealing our history, our culture, and the legacy left behind by all Arizona pioneers. Let’s be honest, the Arizona Trail is not superior to our traditional values, our way of life, or the constitution we hold dear.

Kevin Allard
Author: Kevin Allard

Kevin is an American outdoorsman born and raised in rural Arizona who grew up exploring the Arizona backcountry with his father. Today, he and his son travel to the most remote regions of Arizona, scavenging for the remains of early western pioneers. As a lifelong outdoorsman, Kevin has learned to stick close to his roots while engaging in important advocacy work regarding motorized access to public lands. You can find his work in many local and nationwide publications, including The Western Journal, 4Low Magazine, and his website


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