Blogging the North Country Trail

by admin on October 5, 2011

Welcome! The NCTA’s Insight blog is your source for extended coverage and inside information on what’s happening on and around the North Country Trail.

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The latest Call of the North Fall Winter 2014 issue of our newsletter is now available (PDF – 3.3MB).  In it, you’ll read about…

  • a recap of the Dakota Prairie Chapter’s “Hike every mile” event on North Country National Scenic Trail Day
  • a recap of the Minnesota Hiking Celebration event
  • an update on what’s happening with several of our Chapters in North Dakota & Minnesota
  • The 2015 activities schedule
  • An invitation to attend the Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis next weekend.  There will be several NCT-related presentations and our volunteers will be there staffing our booth in the Exhibitor tent again.

Nov 14 Expo Ad

The NCT is a project needing incredible coordination between many land management agencies and partners. Each agency responsible for a section of the NCT may have a different mission (wildlife management, timber production, recreation) but they all have something in common, the NCT, and it’s our job to remind them the Trail is important, that it traverses 7 states, connects large landscapes and that it needs proper management to live up to the standard of a National Scenic Trail.

Forest Service public meeting

The process may differ from agency to agency, but each agency will have an avenue for the public and partners to get involved in land management plans as well as specific project proposals that may impact the Trail. Providing comment online, attending local meetings and maintaining regular communication with your land managers will ensure the NCT is considered.  In larger plans, the NCTA and NPS staff will be involved and we can offer guidance and support to help you through the more local planning process if needed.

What types of plans or processes might need your input?

Federal Land (National Forests, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges):

NEPA - On Federal land, land managers are required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which provides an opportunity for the public to comment on federal actions that might have an environmental impact. Check out the Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA. and a simplified version of the process in this brochure. 

SOPAs – To keep track of these proposals, make sure you check the quarterly schedule of proposed actions, or SOPAs. These are updated in January, April, July and October. You will find information about special permit requests, timber cuts, land sales, utility projects and much more in these announcements. If a specific proposal might impact the trail, contact the corresponding “Project Contact” listed in the SOPA and indicate your interest in being involved. They are posted online and most forests maintain mailing lists for notifications.

Forest Plans - Each National Forest has a Forest Plan that governs the management of the Forest and its assets. Make sure you know your Forest Plan and how the NCNST fits in. In 2012, the Forest Service revised their Forest Planning Rule, which governs the making of Forest Plans. Because of the advocacy efforts of the Partnership for the National Trails System, including NCTA, we are happy to see that the new planning rule requires National Scenic Trails to be considered a special management area and that each forest plan should provide management direction in those areas. It’s great news but we still have some work to do. Most of our Forest Plans won’t be revised for at least a few years. We need to be ready with our suggestions for what we would like to see in these plans moving forward. Check out our Land Management Plan Tracker with links to the plans in each National Forest.

State by State:

SCORPs - In order to be eligible for Land and Water Conservation Fund money, each state must revise their State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) every 5 years. Check out our Land Management Plan Tracker with links to the plans in each state.

Park/Forest/Trail Plans - Many divisions for the Department of Natural Resources will have their own plans. It’s important to monitor your state park and state forest plans and comment on behalf of the NCT. Most of our states also have some sort of State Trails Plan but they vary from state to state.

Locally: Counties and local municipalities have their own plans. Meet with County commissioners, City Councils and recreation boards to tell them about the NCT and to make sure it’s accounted for in their plans.

When commenting on proposed actions in a specific location or when providing suggestions for a larger plan, here are some things to consider:

  • Do we (NCTA or NPS) have an existing agreement with that agency? Check with me if you aren’t sure. Is this proposal/plan in line or in conflict with it?
  • How will it impact the trail tread as well as the surrounding environment?
  • Will it change the view shed and the soundscape?
  • How will it impact the user’s experience?
  • Is there a safety issue?
  • Will it support or deter the volunteers that support the Trail?
  • Will future funding or trail development possibilities depend on its inclusion in this plan?

Craft your talking points with the following in mind:

  • Don’t reserve your comments for only the proposals you oppose. Comments in support of a proposal that help the trail are important too.
  • Point out any inaccuracies in the plan.
  • Be specific about the impacts and document the facts.
  • Be respectful.
  • Make your case without emotion and opinions.

Keep NCTA and NPS staff in the loop. There is a roll for advocacy at the local level and up to the state, regional and national level to keep the NCT front and center with our agency partners. It’s a big task to keep track of all of these processes so don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Get on the mailing list so you are informed, choose to get involved where you think you’ll have the most impact and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Remember also to exercise good partnership skills when working with your land managers. Their job is not an easy one. Reminding them that we are here to help goes a long way.

September 17, 2014

It’s a Launch!

We Build Trail in Low Places–North Country Trail Association Celebrates our Volunteers! from North Country Trail on Vimeo. With a parody of the song "Friends in Low Places" (properly licensed!) this music video celebrates the volunteers who build, maintain and tell the story of America's longest national scenic trail. Stretching 4600 miles from the middle […]

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July 31, 2014

News for Chapter, Affiliate and Partner Leaders

It’s been a busy summer. Here are some items that have been topics of discussion lately so I thought I’d share with everyone. Let me know if you have questions, comments or thoughts on additional topics you’d like to see me cover in the future. This monthly email is not only meant to share ideas […]

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July 7, 2014

Thru Hiker Oversight?

The recent increase in making end-to-end thru hikes of the North Country National Scenic Trail, including accomplishing it in one season, has led to a number of questions having to do with NCTA’s oversight of such hikes and claims for their accomplishment. While NCTA welcomes and encourages such attempts, the Association neither assumes nor desires […]

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June 5, 2014

Celebrate National Trails Day on the NCT!

Question: What national “holiday” is celebrated this Saturday (June 7th)? Answer: National Trails Day®. According to the American Hiking Society, the 22nd annual National Trails Day® will be “the country’s largest celebration of trails” which will “bring together outdoor enthusiasts across the country.”  It is a “celebration of America’s magnificent trail system and its countless supporters and volunteers. More than […]

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April 28, 2014

Volunteers named Midwest Regional Hartzog Award winners

The National Park Service announced that NCTA Chequamegon Chapter volunteers, Rick Pomerleau and Mary Stenberg have won the Midwest Regional Hartzog Award in the Individual category. Rick and Mary have come to be known as the “dynamic duo” along the NCNST. While either one is deserving of this individual award, it is the collaborative effort […]

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April 28, 2014

Trail Alert: Ott Preserve – Emmett Charter Township, MI

  A portion of the NCT in the Ott Biological Preserve in Calhoun County has been temporarily re-routed while the Calhoun County Trailway is constructed in the same corridor as the northern portion of the Trail.   Please see the Chief Noonday Chapter page for more information: http://www.northcountrytrail.org/cnd/mash_ottpreserve.htm

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February 13, 2014

2014 Trails Advocacy Week Summary

Executive Director Bruce Matthews has been in Washington DC this week, supporting Trails Advocacy Week with the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS): Here is his summary of the week as he wades through weather delays and cancellations trying to get back home: Trails Advocacy Week 2014 is history. We’ve met with federal agency […]

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February 12, 2014

D.C. Blog 5: Tuesday’s Hill visits

Blog # 4: Report on Monday’s Hill visits Executive Director Bruce Matthews is participating in Trails Advocacy Week in Washington, DC. He is blogging his experience. Hill Visits: Tuesday I visited the offices of Rep. Dave Camp (MI-04), Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02),  and Bill Owens (NY-21). Owens’ NY district includes the Adirondacks and will be […]

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