Federal Agency 2021 Highlights

National Park Service (NPS)

  • Trail Administration — NPS administered 23 National Scenic and Historic Trails, including two co-administered trails, spanning over 42,000 miles across 48 States, including the District of Columbia.
  • Funding — Operational funding of $15.4 million was provided in support of the National Trails System and NPS-administered National Trails. NPS provided $925,000 in Connect Trails to Parks competitive funding for projects that connect National Trails to public lands and increase public awareness, appreciation, and use of the National Trails System.
  • National Recreation Trails – NPS provided support to the Secretary of the Interior, who recognized 10 new National Recreation Trails in 8 States for inclusion as elements of the National Trails System. These new National Recreation Trails add more than 160 miles of land and water-based trails to this nationwide network of over 1,300 trails spanning all 50 States, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • Staffing — NPS welcomed Vanessa Morales for an 11-month fellowship through Hispanic Access Foundation to support communications and promotion efforts across the National Trails System.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) 

  • Partnerships — FHWA continued its cooperative agreement with PNTS to perform a gap analysis and corridor protection research project. FHWA began new contracts with The Corps Network for youth workforce development and American Trails for National Trails Training. These efforts will support safety, climate resilience, and equity initiatives.
  • Funding — The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will allow the nation to modernize its infrastructure, making it safer, more resilient and equitable, and help fight climate change. National Scenic and Historic Trails can benefit under this law through expanded funding through Federal highway funding programs. In FY 2021, the FHWA provided Federal-aid highway funds to eligible trail projects selected by the States. Samples funded or completed in 2021 include:
    • North Dakota partnered with the Barnes County Soil Conservation District and Morton County Parks to develop trailside facilities along the North Country NST and Lewis and Clark NHT.
    • Wisconsin funded a project with the City of Portage for trail resurfacing and development of accessible pathways in Paquette Park. This park provides trailhead amenities to users of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
    • The Pacific Crest Trails Association used FHWA funding to complete 107.1 miles of trail maintenance and tackle deferred maintenance needs in remote backcountry areas.
    • The Pacific Northwest Trail Association utilized Recreational Trails Program grant dollars to fund thousands of hours of work on the Pacific Northwest Trail across Washington State.

US Forest Service (USFS) 

  • Partnerships — USFS worked with NPS and BLM to establish a National Recreation Trails (NRT) Roundtable to improve awareness, knowledge and consistency in NRT management across agencies.
  • Trail Standards — A resource assistant was hired to work with American Trails and the Professional Trail Builders Association to develop a common set of training core competencies to increase professionalism in the trails community.
  • Outreach — USFS collaborated with BLM and PNTS to hire an Indigenous mapping intern to raise awareness of ancestral lands on National Trails.
  • Technology — USFS embarked on a full redesign of their trails infrastructure database.
  • Trail Management — USFS continued rolling out the 10 Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge, which focuses collective efforts on actions that will have the most impact on USFS’ ability to increase their collective capacity to manage and maintain trails and to have more miles of sustainable trails that are socially relevant, ecologically resilient, and economically feasible.
  • Budget and Performance — USFS implemented a new budget model in FY 21. The agency is working to provide improved clarity for NSHT budget allocations in FY22.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 

  • Operations — BLM awarded a contract for Inventory Assessment and Monitoring (IAM) Implementation.  As part of the award, a NSHT Training Strategy is being developed that will incorporate BLM, other agency staff and trail partners. This contract will allow states to request inventory work, additional training, policy reviews and assistance with NSHT education/outreach.  It will increase program capacity and partners are encouraged to reach out to local contacts to find out how they can get involved!
  • Data Modeling — The National Operations Center started data modeling for the BLM National Scenic and Historic Trails.  BLM will look to coordinate with federal agencies and trail partners in the process.   
  • Partnerships — BLM established 2 new partnerships in response to DOI Priorities.  The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will work to support the NATIVE Act along the California National Historic Trail in Nevada. The second, a collaboration between Native Lands Digital, PNTS, and USFS to hire an Indigenous Mapping and Research Coordinator via Ancestral Lands (AmeriCorps Intern). These innovative partnerships will engage on a level essential to building better relationships and fostering reciprocity to the land and each other.
  • Staffing — El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail welcomed a new BLM Co-Administrator, Cynthia Herhahn in New Mexico.
  • Funding — The FY 2021 budget for the NSHT Program was $8,358,000 across multiple subactivities, which was a $1,000,000 increase from the FY 2020 level. Additional funding was allocated to States for innovative projects that met specific program criteria and emphasized the new administration’s priorities. 

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 

  • Trail Management – 35,000 miles of public domain trails were added to the National Digital Trails Project in 2021. Nearly 120,000 miles of trails have been added since the beginning of the project with the current total at 290,000. USGS reviewed and updated trails in all 50 states to include National Recreation Trail designations where available.
  • Collaboration — In support of interoperability and data sharing, USGS continued to participate in a multi-agency effort to finalize the Federal Trail GIS Schema based on the FGDC Federal Trail Data Standard. A public review was completed in 2021. The final schema and documentation will be released in 2022.
  • Technology – New developments included the ability to add custom layers to the trail planning support tool analysis, and a Trail Data Portal to streamline the aggregation of public domain trail data. Email trails@usgs.gov for more information.
  • Communication – The National Digital Trails Project launched the National Digital Trails Newsletter, participated in national-level trail organizations, provided 14 trail planning tool workshops, and gave multiple webinars and high-level briefings.