The mission of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition is to complete, promote, and protect the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The CDTC will do this by building a strong and diverse trail community, providing up-to-date information to the public, and encouraging conservation and stewardship of the trail, its corridor, and surrounding landscapes.
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s vision is to see that the 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) is a renowned and revered natural resource for people to connect with friends, family, and community draw inspiration, and create outstanding personal and interpersonal experiences.
We see the CDT as a world-class landscape that inspires pride, passion, respect, creativity, community, and perseverance, connecting landscapes, ecosystems, and communities
While we are extremely proud of our accomplishments to date, we realize that there is much more to be done to fulfill our vision for the future. We want to protect the Trail’s wealth of natural and scenic resources, build a sense of community, promote public land stewardship, inspire healthy lifestyles, and above all, encourage people to know, use, and care for the CDT.
Inspired by the power and grandeur of the trail, CDTC commits to conducting all transactions and dealings with integrity and honesty and to promoting working relationships with board members, staff, volunteers, partners and program beneficiaries that are based on mutual respect, fairness, and openness.
The CDTC was founded in 2012 by volunteers and recreationists hoping to provide a unified voice for the Trail. Today, CDTC is a robust 501(c)3 organization that works hand-in-hand with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land management agencies to build a strong community of supporters who want to see the CDT protected not just for today’s users, but for generations to come.
Why CDTC was formed
On November 10, 1978, Congress established the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT). For many years following its designation, development and recognition of the Trail languished due to a lack of adequate federal funding for the Federal Agencies tasked with its oversight. In addition, public awareness and engagement in the volunteer stewardship necessary for keeping the Trail well-marked and maintained was almost non-existent. Finally, and most importantly, a lack of consistent direction and focus regarding the Trail’s identity, management, and national significance within the public lands it traversed often left it subject to the discretion of the land managers charged with its stewardship.
The Continental Divide Trail Society (CDTS), a group established long before the Congressional Designation in 1978, and instrumental in the inclusion of the CDT in the 1978 legislation, has a narrow focus of influencing trail routing decisions made by the Agencies, and supporting the small, but highly passionate, thruhiker community.
In 1995, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA) formed to cultivate and develop the public and private enthusiasm for the CDT. Over the next decade and a half, CDTA coordinated volunteers to complete over 1,000 miles of non-motorized new or reconstructed tread for the CDT, created a national public awareness program to raise the profile of the CDT, inventoried and mapped the official route of the CDT to develop official map books, and effectively raised the attention and allocation of funding for the CDT in National, Regional, and local agency budgets. Most importantly, it created a unified voice amongst the public to support and encourage consistent management direction for the CDT as a non-motorized trail corridor. In December of 2011, CDTA ceased operations. While Volunteer construction efforts continued through local and regional volunteer groups, its closure left a gap in the coordination, trail protection, and Trail information areas.
In June of 2012, recognizing there was a need for a national advocate group and unified voice for the Trail and determined to ensure the CDT not languish again because of limited funding and public engagement, trail enthusiasts passionate about the CDT formed the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. The CDTC is made up of volunteers, recreationists, Trail supporters and natural resource professionals with the desire to build upon the strengths and successes of the past and pick up where others left off, building strong alliances with the many other local regional groups that care about the CDT and to build a strong national and international community. On May 21, 2014, CDTC signed its official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Forest Service establishing CDTC as the lead national partner working with federal agencies to support stewardship of the CDT.
Continental Divide Trail Coalition Pillars
The CDTC Board and Advisory Committee constructed four pillars of focus for the Coalition. They are: stewardship of the trail, promotion of the trail, building a strong trail community to support the trail, and building an organization with sound governance to support its efforts. CDTC focuses on these four pillars to foster a broad culture of stewardship and belonging within and amongst the trail community.
Stewardship: Embracing the vision for the CDT. CDTC recognizes the trail belongs to the people, and that we have a responsibility to future generations to responsibly manage the trail’s resources and to place those resources in a sacred trust that will ensure that the trail continues to nurture others as it has nurtured so many generations before. To that end, CDTC is committed to building a non-motorized backcountry trail and protecting the trail corridor along the Continental Divide. CDTC serves the trail through on-the-ground projects that ensure the trail is maintained and its corridor is protected in perpetuity. This is accomplished through advocacy for the trail with agencies, lawmakers and the general public; supporting, and inspiring volunteerism for trail construction and maintenance; communicating the vision and direction of the trail as a sustainable resource; educating users, volunteers, and the general public on the appropriate route and uses of the Trail; cultivating strong partnerships; fundraising to help leverage resources widen our impact to protect and preserve the CDT; and by encouraging and supporting land protection efforts to acquire the acquisition of the Corridor on private lands to solve some of the Trail’s most challenging connectivity issues.
Building a strong trail community. CDTC establishes strong community-based relationships through activities that support the construction, maintenance, and support of the CDT. We engage a wide audience of volunteers, supporters, and partners in an ongoing process that informs the work and the priorities of CDTC as the organization evolves. Building stronger local relationships with communities adjacent to the trail and involving volunteers on the ground is the most powerful way to build our movement and preserve and protect the CDT. This includes municipalities, tribal communities and governments. “gateway communities,” state and federal governments, and other public entities. While we always look outward to build a diverse and broad coalition of supporters for the trail, we are mindful of our closest allies, including but not limited to the federal and state agencies whom we depend on for support and guidance, the trail’s users, and the volunteer stewardship organizations along the trail, who have adopted many sections of the CDT as their own and work independently with local land managers to implement projects. CDTC also seeks to establish formal cooperative agreements and strong cooperative relationships with federal and state agency partners. Through building this network, we will build a strong and healthy voice for the CDT.
Trail information, outreach and education. CDTC works to promote the trail’s high profile with the public, and endeavors to ensure all trail data and information remain of high quality and easily accessible to the various audiences who desire this information. CDTC serves as a virtual hub to coordinate information among our partners, both public and private. We work with a wide variety oft media outlets to disseminate trail information and data andpost information online to highlight unique areas and opportunities to experience the Trail, provide resources and services, and offer general information about the CDT. CDTC is the primary source of accurate, reliable information for the CDT, its partners, and the general recreation and conservation economies of local communities. This work also includes doing formal and informal presentations to existing and new communities and partners, and producing materials that effectively brand the trail and educate a wide public about it. Finally, CDTC cultivates partnerships with media outlets and other promotional bodies for the distribution of trail resources, issues impacting the trail, and partner and CDTC activities.
Organizational governance. CDTC develops and sustains an active governing body that is responsible for setting the mission and strategic direction of the organization and provides oversight of the finances, operations, and policies of CDTC. To accomplish this, CDTC’s board members and staff have the requisite skills to carry out their duties and all members understand and fulfill their governance duties acting for the benefit of CDTC and its public purpose. The organization conducts all transactions and dealings with integrity and honesty and promotes working relationships with board members, staff, volunteers, partners, and program beneficiaries that are based on mutual respect, fairness, and openness. We articulate and adopt organizational policies and seek sufficient resources to ensure financial stability of the organization, so that CDTC can effectively carry out its responsibilities. CDTC ensures all spending practices and policies are fair, reasonable, and appropriate to fulfill the mission of the organization and be knowledgeable of and comply with all laws, regulations and applicable conventions for best management practices of non-profit organizations. Finally, we ensure that all the resources of the organization are responsibly and prudently managed and the organization has the capacity to effectively carry out its programs.