10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge

Phase 1: Launch and Learn, Fiscal Year 2022 Guidebook

Why Do We Need a Trail Challenge? Despite the great work happening in support of trails, workload demands continue to outpace the capacity of agency staff, partners, and volunteers. To address these shortcomings, the Forest Service has issued a 10-year Trail Challenge. It focuses the collective energy and resources of the trail community on actions resulting in greater collective capacity to manage and maintain trails, as well as more miles of trails that are well-designed, well-maintained, and well-suited to support recreation use today and into the future.

by USDA Forest Service

With 160,000 miles of trails, the Forest Service manages the Nation’s largest trail system, including thousands of miles of nationally designated scenic, historic, and recreation trails. National Forest System trails bring physical, spiritual, and mental benefits to communities and individuals nationwide. These trails are also used as tools to protect natural and cultural resources and support the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s core values of service, conservation, interdependence, diversity, and safety.

Trails are powerful economic generators, contributing billions of dollars each year to the economy and supporting thousands of jobs in outdoor recreation and tourism. Continued maintenance of these resources is dependent on the shared stewardship of agency employees, Indian Tribes, partners, volunteers, contractors, permittees, and communities—collectively known as the “trail community.” We are reliant on one another—people from all walks of life and diverse perspectives—to steward trails for the benefit of all people.

Why Do We Need a Trail Challenge?

Despite the great work happening in support of trails, workload demands continue to outpace the capacity of agency staff, partners, and volunteers. For example, many National Forest System trails are legacy trails that were not well-designed or well-located. These unsustainable trails—and the proliferation of unauthorized or user-created routes—drain agency resources.

There are further barriers to efficient trail management, including increasing use levels, changing technology and use patterns, damage from natural disasters, and out-of-date data collection methods and reporting processes. Gaps in skills, training, and staffing exacerbate the situation. Employees also recognize staff and user groups often don’t reflect an area’s demographic composition. Many districts and partners struggling with these issues are developing their own solutions, resulting in duplication of effort or inconsistencies.

To address these shortcomings, the Forest Service has issued a 10-year Trail Challenge. It focuses the collective energy and resources of the trail community on actions resulting in greater collective capacity to manage and maintain trails, as well as more miles of trails that are well-designed, wellmaintained, and well-suited to support recreation use today and into the future

Attached document published March 2022

About the Author


To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

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