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Old 01-23-2007, 10:15 AM   #1
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Lightbulb By the way, sights are worth seeing

By the way, sights are worth seeing
By Jodi Rave, Lee News Services
The Bismark Tribune - 22 January 2007
http://www.bismarcktribune.com/artic...cal/127528.txt

Verginia Yazzie is helping the Navajo Nation create the first tribal department to house a federal National Scenic Byways program on the sprawling Navajo Reservation, where the borders stretch into three states.

"We have a lot of scenic areas and festivals. By designating these roads and marketing them at the national level, we're hoping to bring more people into the reservation and our nation," said Yazzie, Navajo Nation Tourism Department coordinator.

As the largest tribe in the country, the Navajo has chosen not to operate casinos. Instead, the tribe has steadily worked to increase tourism on its 17-million-acre land holdings in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Forget about the traditional bed-and-breakfast, though. Navajo marketers are inviting tourists to experience a hogan-and-breakfast, said Yazzie.

And with $25 million in National Scenic Byways grants available in the 2007 Federal Highway Administration budget, the Navajo will be the first tribe on the list of recipients. All grant applications are due by March 19.

"Tribes have always been welcome. Now they have the opportunity to receive grants through the Federal Highway Administration," said Michelle Johnson, director of America's Byways Resource Center in Duluth, Minn. "They don't have to go to the states."

Johnson's resource center will soon hire a tribal liaison to assist tribes in developing scenic road programs, including trails and other attractions along the routes.

Tourists typically don't care how a road receives scenic byway recognition. They just want to know where and how to find it, said Johnson. "They're looking for a great time and that's what the highways deliver."

States have designated more than 700 scenic highways throughout the country since the National Scenic Byways program was established in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The goal: to recognize some of the nation's most stellar highway systems and their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. Today, the America's Byways designation has been bestowed on 126 roads, including All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways.

Some well-known byways include the Great River Road in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin; the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming; the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in Oregon; and the Native American Scenic Byway in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Transportation departments in North Dakota and South Dakota worked with Lakota tribes in both states to designate roads on the reservations as a National Scenic Byway.

"States are seeing tribal lands with value," said Ed Hall, founder of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. "Tribal destinations are a niche market. The Travel Industry Association sees the value in working with tribes in a national promotion."

National Scenic Byways on tribal lands will eventually become world tourist designation points, said Hall. Scenic highways typically have their roots in community efforts to recognize and preserve noteworthy roads. Tribes don't have many scenic byways on the map. But direct access to federal highway grants - which became law in August 2005 -will allow Native nations to develop tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs roads, said Hall.

The Navajo Nation Scenic Byway program will soon receive $88,000 for scenic road development. And the tribes will be working with states to include reservation roads in the Trail of the Ancients byway in New Mexico and Arizona. The byway already has All-American Roads status in Colorado and Utah.

The Navajo are "ready to go," said Kathy Knapp, Arizona's Scenic Byways coordinator. "It makes sense. There's a lot that can be done. When they get more tourists, they also want to teach them more about their culture."

For more information on National Scenic Byways, go to http://www.bywaysonline.org/ or http://www.byways.org/ or the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association at http://www.aianta.org/
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