Byways 2021: A project of the Scenic Byways Coalition and America’s Byways Resource Center

Byways: A Model for Interagency & Community Collaboration

It was almost 20 years ago when our then Chief of the Forest Service, Dale Robertson, established the National Forest Scenic Byways program as the first national byways program in the nation. Since 1988, our agency has designated 137 roads and forest highways as National Forest Scenic Byways. Today, almost half of the 126 roads designated and marketed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as America’s Byways® are located entirely or partially on National Forest System lands. Many of these DOT byways were first initiated and designated under our federal agency program. The River Road Scenic Byway in Michigan and Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota are two noteworthy examples.

I think we have found in the byways concept an excellent model for interagency and community collaboration where our managers are actively working across boundaries to conserve special landscapes, build community pride, and leverage scarce resources for destination marketing. Our forest byways program receives some funding through the DOT, Federal Lands Highways Division programs for those roads also classified as “forest highways.” When our forest byways are cross designated under a State Scenic Byways program, or elevated as one of DOT’s 126 America’s Byways®, they are also eligible for federal aid grants; such as marketing assistance or interpretive planning. About 25 percent of our forest byways do not qualify for any of these federal aid grants. All of our forest byways are eligible for some transportation planning assistance through Federal Lands Highways Division.

The Chief’s National Forest Scenic Byways program continues to be an important catalyst for collaboration to build community awareness of the intrinsic values inherent in our public landscapes.

Here are some examples:

  • We have initiated work with National Geographic Society, Center for Sustainable Destinations, to protect scenic corridors, cultural landscapes, and promote geo-tourism conservation in Montana.
  • We have integrated byways with resource management objectives; such as fuels reduction work for fire safe communities recently completed along the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway corridor in South Dakota.
  • We are collaborating with Shasta Cascades Wonderland Association in northern California to market local destinations for heritage and wildlife tourism and to pilot the idea of back-country touring routes off National and State byways.
  • We are working to integrate our Nature-watch wildlife viewing sites into the Washington State Tourism Office and Scenic Byways website itineraries.

It is our vision that planning and marketing America’s Byways® could be inclusive of these forest byways. This would allow the federal partners greater resources to collaborate with our local and state partners to create a multiple tier system of routes eligible for national byways grants. The inclusion of these highly scenic and historically important forest routes on federal lands would greatly enhance the overall collection of America’s Byways® and be more representative of this country’s rich opportunities for scenic touring

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Sally Collins
About the author: Sally Collins was named Associate Chief for the USDA, Forest Service, August 2001. Prior to her selection as Associate Chief, Collins had been the Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System since April 2000. With over more than 20 years with the Forest Service, she has held positions including: Forest Supervisor of the Deschutes National Forest, Forest Planner, Wilderness Specialist, Environmental Coordinator, and Mineral Leasing Coordinator.

Read more about Sally Collins

3 Responses to “Byways: A Model for Interagency & Community Collaboration”

  1. Frances Land Says:

    Our byway is jointly a FS byway and a federal scenic byway. I am now chair and part of a citizens group that took on a sadly neglected FS byway started in’94. We took on the project in’98 renamed it, got some byway funding, got federal status for it and are now marketing it. It is interesting to note that the local FS was not interested in the project until we began to move the project along then accused us of “stealing their byway” by the District Ranger! It was a state byway at that point which was what we were working with directly under the supervision of our state byway coodinator. We were a group of byway businesses, local chamber and rural economic development supporters, county government contact person. I wonder if other FS byways have had such communication problems or “ownership issues”. This was eventually smoothed over but probably stemed from confusion of of FS directives. Certainly would like to hear back from somebody.

  2. Floyd Thompson Says:

    Mr. Frances Land may I commend your fine individual efforts on this beautiful NM byway which runs partly within the Gila National Forest. I am the National Program Leader for Travel, Tourism, and Byways (which includes Forest Byways)for the USDA Forest Service. I have been in the role of District Ranger when we designated in 1988 the Sandia Crest National Forest Scenic Byway. Much as you described Mr. Land, the community responded very well, but contrary to your experience we welcomed the help and fostered the partnership for leveraged work with the Chamber, County and State. I think there have been a few examples as you describe, but on the whole our national direction encourages community involvment and leadership. Our best examples have followed this model such as: Peter Norbeck, River Road and San Juan Skyway. I am glad things have improved and thank you for your continuing work for advocate for our forest byways efforts.

  3. Derrick Crandall Says:

    This exchange reflects the disjointed nature of the two programs currently as well as the ups and downs of activity we can expect in most long-term efforts. National Forest byways currently receive no special funding and limited technical support, and are hampered by the overall funding challenges facing the Forest Service road system. Yet they are used and enjoyed by large numbers of forest visitors and are, as Sally points out, an important part of the effort by the agency to serve and communicate with visitors. This is a challenge that needs discussion and a solution in the 2009 surface transportation legislation!