The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) New Mexico Office has acquired a right-of-way from the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) to improve recreational access along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The right-of-way will authorize and facilitate hiking through segments of state land located along the CDNST and will enable federal funds to be used for the administration, operation, and maintenance of the CDNST where it crosses state land. This is the product of years of collaboration between BLM New Mexico, the State Land Office, and nonprofit organization the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC).
Thru-hiking has become more popular along the trail in recent years, increasing the need to improve access for hikers. The trail also helps buoy local economies near the trail throughout New Mexico. A 2019 Small Business Survey Conducted by the CDTC which gathered information from 200 business owners show that CDNST, the public lands it traverses, and the recreationists that use it are a crucial part of the economic activity in these towns. Almost all of those surveyed (97%) believed that enhancing the trail and public lands is essential to their community. In addition, 88% of those surveyed said they have seen economic benefits and growth in the past 5 years due to the trail’s use (CDTC 2019).
Before the acquisition of the right-of-way, the State Land Office would provide the CDTC with permits to issue to CDNST hikers, allowing them to lawfully cross state land as they trek the trail. The right-of-way acquired by BLM New Mexico removes the need for hikers to obtain an extra permit to access the CDNST. The right-of-way will also enable the BLM to maintain the trail and make improvements passing through state land. These improvements are designed with multi-use principles in mind, thus improving the trail experience for hikers while mindful of the needs of New Mexico’s agricultural users.
The CDNST extends from the Canadian border to Mexico, traversing five states and over 3000 miles. Within New Mexico, the CDNST spans around 820 miles and crosses through multiple jurisdictional authorities. 22 federally recognized Tribes were notified of this project via a courtesy letter sent out from the BLM NMSO on June 27, 2018. This letter invited the Tribes to government-to-government consultation. Three responses were received from the Hopi Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the Comanche Nation.