2020 Partnership for the National Trails System Highlights


PNTS organized and led the 23rd “Hike the Hill” with the American Hiking Society (AHS).  More than 100 representatives from 40 trail organizations, including PNTS Trail Apprentices and AHS Next Generation leaders participated in meetings with agency leaders and members of Congress.  

The PNTS JEDI Working Group continued to address and promote Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion issues, attitudes, policies, and programs within the National Trails community. Highlights of their work included the development of a best practices document as a resource for members as well as organizing trainings with talented facilitators, Lila Leatherman and Jose Gonzales.

The PNTS Board of Directors released a Statement of Inclusion and a Statement of Solidarity.

PNTS made available two resource lists on its website: COVID-19 Updates for National Scenic and Historic Trails and Diversity and Inclusion Resources, to help National Scenic and Historic Trails stay abreast on new information.


As part of the Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition, PNTS successfully advocated for the inclusion of the National Trails System in Great America’s Outdoors Act (GAOA). GAOA passed with bipartisan support, securing permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as deferred maintenance. GAOA requires annual appropriation of the $900 million authorized for the LWCF and authorizes up to $1.9 billion a year for five years to start fixing the maintenance backlog of facilities—including trails—within the National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management Districts.

A GAOA Working Group formed to recommend a PNTS strategy for pursuing opportunities that could benefit the National Trails System as a result of the recent passing of GAOA.

PNTS, in collaboration with FHWA and other partners, developed a “connectivity analysis” to identify gaps in trail protection.  This GIS-based system wilI be available to members and partners in 2021.

PNTS prepared a draft trail protection handbook, a draft status report on trail protection, and a series of case studies that illustrate how partners can work together to enhance public access and safety by providing permanent off-road routes for national trails. These new resources are expected to available to the public in 2021 or 2022.

PNTS published three cases studies on trail protection featuring the Ala Kahakai Trail NHT, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and the Ice Age NST.


PNTS moved its headquarters from Madison, WI to Washington DC in September 2020, bringing us geographically closer to many of our agency and nonprofit partners and legislators. 

After more than two decades of leadership Gary Werner retired as Executive Director of PNTS. During executive recruitment, Karen Crossley joined PNTS as Interim Executive Director and Kathy Decoster served as Interim Director of Advocacy and Policy. 

In late August 2020, PNTS welcomed its second ever Executive Director, Valerie Rupp.

PNTS distributed the 3rd round of Trail Intern Grants, providing  $129,889 to trail organizations or agency offices to hire 13 interns for projects. Funds for this program were provided  by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service.

PNTS engaged 23 Trail Apprentices, its biggest cohort to date, and adapted the program to a virtual format featuring a variety of sessions focused on career exploration. 

In October, the Partnership hosted its first virtual workshop. In adapting to the new format, the workshop stretched over 9 days with 17 sessions covering the core themes: Advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion; Expanding Partnerships Within and Beyond Trail Corridors; and Increasing Capacity Through Organizational Development.

Recordings from Fall Workshop Sessions are publicly available on the Partnership website at www.pnts.org/new/2020workshopdetailprogrampw/