By Gary Werner, Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System
During 2017, the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) continued to provide the educational and information sharing services it has for years to the National Trails System community. Pathways Across America was published and distributed quarterly, and informative webinars and e-News were provided monthly. Mentoring was also provided to several of the national trails partnerships on trail protection approaches and techniques. Forums were set up on the PNTS website for a working group of agency and trail organization GIS specialists to share topics and projects and organization volunteer coordinators to share their challenges and best practices.
PNTS once again partnered with the American Hiking Society to organize and host our annual weeklong advocacy event, “Hike the Hill,” in Washington, D.C. in February. About 100 citizen advocates from across the National Trails System participated in meetings with their members of Congress and leaders of the agencies administering and managing the national scenic and historic trails.
The PNTS Advocacy and Policy Committee continued to meet monthly, with consistent participation from 10-12 of the national scenic and historic trails, to monitor appropriations bills and legislation affecting several national trails. The Committee assembled a portfolio of Land and Water Conservation Fund projects to protect land along a dozen national scenic and historic trails to present to Congress for funding. The Committee also reviewed and prepared formal comments on these policy initiatives proposed by the Administration:
- Bureau of Land Management Land Management Planning procedures after the Planning 2.0 approach was ended by the Department of the Interior;
- The review of National Monuments established over the past 20 years, some of which include sections of several national scenic and historic trails;
- Increase of entrance fees to 17 National Parks through which several national scenic and historic trails pass.
The PNTS also sent comments supporting the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s opposition to two proposed gas pipelines that would disrupt miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and supported several of the other member trail organizations in opposing other energy transmission facilities.
In addition to these ongoing activities, the PNTS undertook several new initiatives. PNTS collaborated with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service to design and fund a first-ever National Trails System Trail Intern Grants program. In December, using money provided by the three agencies, the PNTS distributed grants totaling $190,000 to 20 national scenic and historic trail partnerships. The Trail Interns are projected to collectively assist with the full range of activities underway along the recipient trails through 2018.
Throughout 2017, PNTS staff continued to organize and lead the coalition with the American Hiking Society, American Trails, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy working with our Federal agency partners to plan activities, events, and programs to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System through 2018. A 50th Anniversary Committee within the PNTS has guided planning for two signature events and other activities. These events are a 50th Anniversary Kick-off Reception on February 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C. as part of “Hike the Hill” and a National Trails Conference in conjunction with a National Rivers Symposium, October 22-25, 2018, in Vancouver, WA. Please participate in the events and activities throughout 2018 that will help many more Americans learn about and support the National Trails System.
The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) is a 501(c)(3) that connects member nonprofit trail organizations and Federal agency partners to further the protection, completion, and stewardship of the 30 national scenic and historic trails within the National Trails System.
The PNTS advocates on behalf of the National Trails System as a whole for land preservation and stewardship resources. Other major roles of the PNTS include the collection and dissemination of national trails news and the development of outreach initiatives and youth programming.
Today, the Partnership has 34 member and six affiliate nonprofit organizations and works in close collaboration with the five Federal agency partners who have jurisdiction over the trails.
Since 1997, the Partnership has embodied the collaboration of the National Trails System Act and has advocated for the trails. The Partnership continues to seek new partnerships and relationships both within and outside the trails community to foster a strong National Trail System well-connected to communities, businesses, and civic groups.
To empower, inspire, and strengthen public and private partners to develop, preserve, promote, and sustain the national scenic and historic trails.
PNTS envisions a world-class system of national scenic and historic trails that preserves natural and cultural values and provides recreational benefits for all.
The purpose of PNTS is to promote and support the efforts of national scenic and historic trail organizations, to secure public and private resources, and to serve as a collective voice for policy and action that supports national scenic and historic trails.