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published Sep 8, 2018
American Trails Staff
The checklist focuses specifically on wildlife issues of trail planning and is designed to mirror comprehensive planning processes.
Encouraging visitors to stay on the trail is the most important issue, and is made easier by providing attractive, well-designed trail systems. Managers should also identify populations of plants that have been designated as threatened, endangered, or sensitive.
A trail’s area of influence should be planned and managed as an integral part of the trail. This influence zone should provide recreationists with meaningful interactions with nature, without infringing on sensitive habitat.
Protecting large, undisturbed areas of wildlife habitat should be a priority. Deciding whether or not to build a trail that may contribute to fragmentation is a tradeoff that the local community or land manager will have to make.
Looking at resources from a regional or landscape-wide perspective helps identify where trails should go and which areas should be conserved for wildlife.
The construction of a trail is just one impact on the habitat it passes through. The activities of visitors and the response of wildlife are also components of the long-term trail impacts.
Offering wildlife interpretation and environmental education to trail users can play an important role in reducing impacts to wildlife. People more readily protect what they understand and appreciate.
Any trail will have at least some impact on wildlife. Therefore, deciding whether the recreational value of a trail outweighs those impacts is a community choice, or in some cases, a legal question.
Many longer trails cross from one jurisdiction to another. This has ramifications for how the trail is planned and specifically how wildlife issues are considered.
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Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Washington
Routed and painted wood sign; Arches National Monument, Moab, Utah
Sign helps users find trail beyond point of interest; Arches National Monument, Moab, Utah
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