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National Park Service Tours Local Canoe Trail

Nick Kern for the Madisonian, 09/15/2011

      Visiting staff from the National Park Service paddled a section of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (L&CNHT) with members of the Jefferson River Canoe Trail last Thursday. Headquarters for the historic trail are located in Omaha, Nebraska.

      Concerned about the potential visual impacts of NorthWestern Energy's proposed Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI), park service staffers first met with BLM personnel to do "site specific consultation," according to Dan Wiley, Chief of Resources Stewardship for the L&CNHT. The BLM is the lead agency in the permitting process for the proposed 125-foot tall transmission line.

      "We seek to avoid and minimize the impacts of MSTI on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail," said Wiley.

      BLM and NPS staff toured vantage points throughout the Jefferson Valley to assess the magnitude of the impacts from the proposed power line. Afterwards, the park service personnel paddled canoes from Twin Bridges to Silver Star to see the Lewis and Clark Trail from the river. Tom Elpel of Pony, president of the Jefferson River Canoe Trail, provided canoes for the outing. A flotilla of four canoes and two kayaks went downriver for the tour and a picnic.

      "The Jefferson River is an amazing segment if the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail," said Neal Bedlan, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the L&CNHT.

      The Lewis and Clark expedition traveled up the Jefferson in their search for a navigable water route to facilitate commerce between the Missouri River and the Columbia River, according to Elpel. Between 1804 and 1806, the expedition traversed more than 7,000 miles from Saint Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back, covering the distance by canoe, horseback, and on foot. Their route was designated as the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail by an act of Congress in 1978.

      "It is kind of like having a long, skinny national park right in our backyards," said Elpel, "except that there isn't any real protection for the resources."

      JRCT is working to preserve the land and history of the Jefferson River segment of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Elpel said. The group is seeking land for suitable public campsites, as well as working to educate landowners about conscientious development along the river.

      "The bottom line," Elpel said, "is that it is up to local citizens and landowners to protect the integrity of the Lewis and Clark Trail. It is my hope that we can all begin to think of the Jefferson River as our own little national park and cooperatively work together to keep it beautiful."

      "The Jefferson River Canoe Trail is a great example of locals actively being involved with the protection of the resources. We depend on our partners to help us protect the trail," said Denise Nelson, Environmental Protection Specialist for the L&CNHT.

      "The Jefferson River Canoe Trail is one of the few water trails groups that understands the importance of embracing both stewardship and recreation," Bedlan added. "Actively experiencing the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on the water really brings the story alive."

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