Interagency Communication and Collaboration Across the National Trails System

By Vanessa Morales, National Trails System Communications Fellow

Two National Historic Trail employees, one from the NPS National Trails Office and one from BLM’s National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, stand in front of a covered wagon at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, WY. Photo courtesy of NPS.

The National Trails System’s (NTS) 19 National Historic and 11 National Scenic Trails are administered by three Federal agencies: the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the US Forest Service (USFS), all with unique strategies for managing communications. These agencies are responsible for sharing news about the public lands they manage but for the NTS what is relevant for one agency, might be relevant to the others, as well. Establishing connections with digital media staff at Offices of Communication of the three agencies and PNTS was immensely helpful in getting the word out about NTS news. 

During my Fellowship with the NPS National Trails office, an interagency NTS Communications Working Group was established to coordinate messaging between trails and agencies. It is a collaborative group that aims to develop a collaborative partnership approach for communication for the NTS. Together, the group develops methods for consistent and continuous messaging about the NTS and improve internal and external communication about the NTS.

When our partners at the American Hiking Society hosted National Trails Day in June, I worked with the Office of Communications at NPS to create internal communications guidance for the event to inform national parks about how to best promote their National Trails Day event. That guidance was also shared internally with the BLM and the USFS. All three agencies shared about the nation’s largest trail event in a coordinated way on social media, and the awareness about National Trails Day would not have been possible without the assistance of the three agencies’ willingness and commitment to share NTS related news.

Additionally, I assisted the NPS National Trails Office with the 2022 American Solar Challenge (ASC), a collegiate cross-country solar car rally that followed the route of the Oregon National Historic Trail (NHT). Many of the ASC checkpoints were located at NPS sites along the route, with one checkpoint at a BLM site. Both agencies were excited to share about this unique event along the Oregon NHT and because of this, the ASC reached hundreds of thousands of people on social media and gained television media attention.

Having interagency support greatly helps raise awareness about the NTS. By working together and taking a coordinated approach to NTS related communications, awareness about the System can be uplifted in a far more efficient and impactful way than each trail or agency attempting to do so alone.

The past year is only the beginning of the coordination and reach the NTS can achieve. The NTS Communications Working Group will continue to meet monthly to improve and increase interagency communications. Of course, many national trails depend on their partner organizations to take charge of communications. The next area of potential to raise awareness about the System is through the public and private partner organizations who work hard to promote, develop, sustain, and preserve the National Scenic and Historic Trails. Further involvement and coordination among the trails, agencies and partners will continue to uplift recognition of the NTS.

To get connected with communicators across the trails system contact