A court recently denied the government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit which claimed it had failed to comply with the National Trails System Act. The lawsuit, which involved the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, alleged that the government had failed to issue a comprehensive plan for the trail as required by law. The government argued that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring such a lawsuit. The court disagreed, finding that the plaintiff’s interest in preventing conflict between hikers and grizzly bears conferred standing to bring the suit.
The court noted that the National Trails System Act was enacted “to provide for the ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding population” and “to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation.” Under the law, within one year of a trail being designated as a National Scenic Trail, the government is required to establish an advisory council, and within two years it must prepare “a comprehensive plan for the acquisition, management, development, and use of the trail” to Congress. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail was designated in 2009, consisting of 1,200 miles extending from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National Park and is administered by the US Forest Service. The government apparently did not deny that it had failed to establish a plan, and instead sought to have the case dismissed on technical grounds.