Trekkers to Cross United States Entirely on Public Lands

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
August 1, 2002

An unprecedented historic adventure began Wednesday on the Canadian and Mexican borders of the western United States: Two teams set out simultaneously from each international boundary to cross the length of the United States—entirely on public land.

American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey celebrates a natural heritage unique in the world—but not well known among the U.S. citizens who own it and control its fate.

Beyond popular national parks such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon, lies an enormous tract of other U.S. public lands classified under dozens of designations. These areas are known as National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, National Recreation Areas, and many other titles. Together, they comprise approximately a third of the land in America.

This vast area is owned collectively by all Americans, and it's up to Americans as a nation to determine the future of the land.

Yet many Americans, particularly in the East where public lands are scarce, remain unaware of the extent of public lands and the special trust they have been afforded to control its fate.

That's why American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey was conceived—as a way to showcase the beauty, accessibility, diversity, and diverse uses of our public lands.

The adventure is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA), a non-profit organization that distributes information about public lands. Partners in the venture include the National Geographic Society and several U.S. agencies: the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Every Step to Be on Public Land

The journey is an epic trek, being undertaken by two teams. Beginning simultaneously at America's northern and southern borders, in Montana and New Mexico respectively, the two groups will journey nearly 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) over the next two months.

Every inch of their journey will be on public lands, making the event the first recorded crossing of the United States from border to border without setting foot on privately owned property.

Along the way the trekkers will utilize all kinds of modes of travel, including hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, all-terrain vehicles, canoes, mountain bikes, motorboats, and dual sport motorcycles. The varied means of conveyance illustrate the many recreational opportunities available on the lands along the route.

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