The formalization and expected hardening of a once informal hiking trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail, has surfaced several deep issues whose resolution, in one form or another, stands to affect both trail users and those who make their living from the lands through which the trail passes for decades to come.
In light of the gravity of the situation, I encourage a thoughtful process that brings together all stakeholders and recognizes the long-term environmental and social impacts of an increasingly used trail. As part of this process, I hope that different trail configurations will be considered.
The Pacific Northwest Trail lacks the historical legacy of many trails in the East, and even those in Glacier National Park. While it is still young and new is the time to craft a workable future for it that retains the physical challenge and uplift of hiking while not impinging on the ecosystems so important to the health of the Kootenai and connected northern forests or the livelihoods and uplift of those who live in the areas through which the trail eventually passes.