Hiking to Vallecito alpine lake, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Three hikers on a shale trail leading to Vallecito Lake in the Grenadier Mountains in Silverton.

A nonprofit organization that promotes and protects the Continental Divide Trail found that the majority of small business owners surveyed along the five-state trail network have seen economic growth in their communities over the past five years and support funding for a federal conservation program.

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition, based in Golden, gathered responses from 200 business owners in August and September. Nearly half were from Colorado, with 20% living Montana and another 20% in New Mexico. The remaining respondents were in Idaho and Wyoming.

Eighty-eight percent saw business growth in their communities since 2014, and 58% saw growth in their own businesses.

Ninety-eight percent of respondents supported full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that takes money paid to the federal government from oil and gas leases to preserve public land.

The coalition’s website notes that they hope to benefit from LWCF by receiving money to purchase land along the trail. All 50 states have LWCF-funded projects.

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will consider a bill from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to provide full and permanent funding for the LWCF without congressional appropriation. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner are cosponsors. (Update: The bill passed in committee.)

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the outcome of the Senate vote.

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