WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced that the National Park Service (NPS) has determined that the Chisholm and Great Western cattle trails meet the criteria to become National Historic Trails. The NPS made this determination in a final feasibility study submitted to Congress following a request from Sen. Moran.
Starting in 1867 and lasting into the 1880s, these trails carried upwards of 10 million cattle as they traveled northbound from Southern Texas to Kansas communities such as Caldwell, Wichita, Abilene, Ellsworth, Dodge City and many others.
The Chisholm Trail (also known as the “Abilene Trail”), started in the vicinity of San Antonio, Texas, to Enid, Oklahoma, Caldwell, Wichita, and cumulating in Abilene.
The Great Western Trail (also known as the “Dodge City Trail”), started in the vicinity of San Antonio, Texas, north-by-northwest to Oklahoma, north through Kansas to Dodge City, and north through Nebraska to Ogallala.
“This determination by the National Park Service moves us one step closer to preserving these historic cattle trails long into the future,” said Sen. Moran. “I am pleased to have partnered with a coalition of Kansans in working to conserve these trails that are foundational for many Kansas communities and of national historic significance. Importantly, designating these trails will not require federal land acquisition and participation by private property owners is strictly voluntary. I look forward to continuing our work as we begin the process of passing legislation to officially designate these trails.”
In March 2009, Congress directed the NPS to study the cattle trails for possible addition to the National Historic Trails System. In 2015, the Draft Chisholm and Great Western Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment found that designating the historic cattle trail routes was “physically feasible,” as well as “suitable and desirable, given the apparent level of public support for designation and the opportunities designation would provide for heritage tourism, protection of original trail sites, and public recreation and education.” The study also noted that “No federal land acquisition is anticipated. No lands or interests in lands shall be acquired by the federal government without the consent of the owner.”
The Senate’s FY2019 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies report (Report 115-276) states: “The Committee is concerned about the Service’s lack of progress in completing a final study on the feasibility of designating the Chisholm and Great Western Trail cattle trails as national historic routes, as directed by Section 5303 of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The Committee directs the Service to work expeditiously to complete the study in a timely fashion and report back to the Committee on any impediments to completion.”
On April 19, Sen. Moran urged U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to work to complete and submit the final feasibility study to Congress for designating the Chisholm and Great Western cattle trails as National Historic Trails. Congress can now enact legislation that would officially designate the trails while ensuring the protection of private property rights.