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Implementing the 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge

Portrait of Chief Vicki Christiansen in uniform.
Chief Vicki Christiansen

I am pleased to share with you the launch of the 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge and invite your leadership to engage employees, partners, volunteers and stakeholders nationwide to implement the challenge together over the next decade. In alignment with our national priorities of promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism and our national priorities of enhancing recreation opportunities, improving access and sustaining infrastructure, the trail challenge is a call to action to increase our collective capacity to care for trails and increase on-the-ground results through shared stewardship of trails.

With 159,000 miles of trails, the Forest Service manages the nation’s largest trail system. National Forest System trails are well-loved and well-used—providing access and connecting people with our nation’s forests and grasslands, fostering partnership and volunteerism, and generating health and economic benefits to communities. These trails depend on the support and energy of employees, volunteers, partners and communities nationwide.

The challenge catalyzes the Forest Service to engage other federal partners, state and local governments, communities, tribes and tribal organizations, volunteers, partners and other stakeholders (collectively known as the “trails community”) through shared stewardship to prioritize, invest and innovate to achieve a more sustainable system of trails. The trail challenge focuses on accomplishing 10 of 26 actions outlined in the Forest Service “National Strategy for a Sustainable Trail System” developed in partnership with the trails community and in alignment with the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016.

The agency will focus on implementing the trail challenge over the next decade. I ask you to look for ways to lead out on this challenge—inspiring, innovating and working with employees, partners and communities across boundaries to achieve a sustainable trail system for the benefit of all. With your leadership, and in partnership with the broader trails community, we can and will increase our collective capacity to care for trails and achieve on-the-ground results for the millions of visitors we all serve.

On Feb. 11, I announced the launch of the to 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge with trail partners from around the country who attended “Hike the Hill” events in Washington, D.C. Near the conclusion of the event, Barney Mann, president of the Partnership for the National Trail System, shared a special message from a woman named Sharon Francis.

In his introduction, Barney related that for national scenic and historic trails, there is no bigger day than Oct. 2, 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Trails System Act, which created iconic trails like the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. He shared that Sharon, a Johnson administration staff member, was there that day, along with senators and congressmen, to witness the signing of the act into law. In her touching audio message to me and to Forest Service and nonprofit professionals and volunteers, Sharon shared thought-provoking context regarding that landmark event. She also acknowledged the privilege I have to serve as the Chief of the Forest Service as the second female chief in history. I found her words and perspective inspiring and wanted to share her message with you.

Group photo
Forest Service employees and volunteers pose for a group photo after completing trail work. USDA Forest Service photo.
Portrait photo of Sharon Francis
Sharon Francis was a staff member during the Johnson administration who assisted in drafting several key pieces of legislation, including the National Trails System Act of 1968. Courtesy photo.