Under the statute governing the Program (Title 23, Section 162 of the United States Code), a road must be designated as a State scenic byway, an Indian tribe scenic byway, or, in the case of a road on Federal land, as a Federal land management agency byway before it can be considered for designation as a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road. Grants and technical assistance under the National Scenic Byways Program can be made to States and Indian tribes.
States and Indian tribes are thus the front line of the National Scenic Byways Program, and the Program's success is in large part due to the contributions of State and Indian tribe byway coordinators. Their collective commitment to the NSBP, and local and regional interpretation of the Program's goals, has been a major reason for the quality and diversity of the collection as it exists today. In the early years of the Program, these individuals took responsibility for the Program at the State, Tribal, and local level and, in many States with no history of byway programs, established an expectation of professionalism, commitment, and creativity that today are hallmarks of the Program. The role of byway coordinators has been largely shaped by these early advocates of the Program.
Each State has at least two key contacts for the Program, typically one in the State transportation or highway department, and the other in the State tourism department. One person, often the State Department of transportation (DOT) contact, is designated as the State scenic byway coordinator and is the key contact for local groups wishing to nominate a route as a State or National Scenic Byway, or applying for National Scenic Byways Program grant funding.
Each State is responsible for developing its own approach and program, and States vary widely in their approaches. Some States, such as Maryland and Colorado, have strong State programs with multiple nationally-designated byways as well as other State-designated routes. Others have scenic byway programs but no nationally-designated routes, while a few States do not have formal programs (for example, byways in Massachusetts are designated by special acts of the State legislature).
In 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) amended the National Scenic Byways Program to allow the nomination of America's Byways® by Indian tribes, and to make Indian tribes, projects on Indian tribe scenic byways, and Indian tribe scenic byway programs eligible for funding. Because of this relatively new addition, discussion of Indian Tribes in this report is necessarily somewhat limited. As the number of Indian tribe scenic byways grows in the future, further research and evaluation may be necessary regarding potential Indian tribe issues related to assessing and sustaining the quality of the America's Byways® collection.
Through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), State tribal liaison offices, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO), and Tribal governments, the National Scenic Byways Program showcases the land and people stories of the American Indian. The Pyramid Lake National Scenic Byway in Nevada, designated in 1996, is still the only nationally designated route entirely within tribal lands (the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation) but at least eight other nationally designated byways (10 State byway segments) cross tribal lands, representing partnerships with 11 tribes: