The National Trails System: A Model Partnership Approach to Natural Resources Management
Our magnificent 40,000-mile National Trails System was established by Congress under the National Trails System Act (NTSA) of 1968 through the combined efforts of President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, and Sens. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) and Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.). Private and nonfederal public lands make up the lion's share of federally recognized long-distance trail corridors. Consequently, to help administer each of the designated trails, Congress has authorized partnerships with nonfederal interests, principally through cooperative agreements with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) devoted to trails.
Since the NTSA's enactment, 20 national historic and scenic trails have been designated by Congress, and numerous other potential national long-distance trails have been surveyed and catalogued. A major open space land acquisition and protection program has been implemented for the Appalachian Trail. Thousands of miles of abandoned railroad tracks have been converted into trails, and thousands of miles of completed nonfederal scenic and historic trail segments have been certified by federal agencies. The federal government also has recognized over 800 "national recreation trails."