FARGO-For the first time in about eight years, a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would improve the 4,600-mile North Country Trail that runs from North Dakota to New York.

The proposed improvements on the nation's longest trail are the focus of a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Under the bill, the trail would be rerouted in Minnesota to include 400 miles of existing hiking trails in the northern Minnesota area of the Boundary Waters Canoe wilderness and along scenic Lake Superior avoiding wetlands that were in the current planned route.

The legislation would also make a rather small extension of the trail in Vermont to connect it the Appalachian Trail-a popular and more well-known trail along the East Coast.

The North Country trail currently runs from the New York-Vermont border and extends across seven states to Lake Sakakawea State Park on the Missouri River in North Dakota..

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About 12 people have hiked the entire route, but thousands of others have been on parts of the trail created by Congress in 1980 and largely built by volunteers, including the Dakota Prairie Chapter that has worked on about 75 miles of the route in southeastern North Dakota from Fort Abercrombie to Lisbon.

In Minnesota, regional trail coordinator Matt Davis said the proposed new route would include a lot of public land which makes it easier than trying to obtain easements on private lands.

By including the Lake Superior and Boundary Waters routes it would also serve the purpose of including more of the nation's scenic and cultural sites that Congress wants to see on the route, Davis said.

Davis said about 600 of the 840 miles of the trail in Minnesota is done, with about 250 miles left to go.

He said some of the gaps in far western Minnesota are from Fergus Falls west to Fort Abercrombie and near Maplewood State Park in the Detroit Lakes area.

Davis thinks it has a good chance of being approved this year as it isn't controversial and the mood seems to be changing in Washington to "get some of the people's business done."

"Minnesota's Arrowhead region has some of the most beautiful trails in the country," Klobuchar said. "By finally including the Arrowhead region on the trail, this legislation would boost tourism, benefit local businesses, and allow people to share in our state's natural beauty all while conserving our wetlands."

Hoeven added that the trail " provides hikers with access to some of the most beautiful landscapes in North Dakota and the northern United States. This legislation improves the route and connects it to additional trails, which will help increase tourism and grow the local economies of the communities along the trail."

U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Al Franken, D-Minn., are also co-sponsors of the bill along with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents northern Minnesota.