Trails Connect! Interagency Dialogue with U.S. Forest Service

June, 2014 – Our national system of trails helps connect people with their natural and culture heritage and contributes to the American identity. Trails provide a natural portal for Americans of all walks of life which help us rebuild the all-important “nature-human connection” and promote healthy lifestyles.

In honor of National Trails Day®, American Hiking Society is co-hosting one of three dialogues with the U.S. Forest Service, and the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) on the relevance oCTSf trails in America today.  Scheduled the day before NTD on June 6, the Trails Connect! Dialogue will be hosted by Gregory Miller, AHS President and Tom Tidwell, US Forest Service Chief and FICOR Chair.  Through the lens of “Connecting through Stewardship: Pathways, People, & Partnerships”, AHS and FICOR are bringing together trail and recreation organizations, youth affiliates, veterans and the outdoor recreation industry to seek ways to ensure trail opportunities for all Americans, highlight the economic and social benefits of trails, and inspire increasing citizen stewardship of trails.

This dialogue will also help generate ideas for addressing some of the concerns outlined in the 2013 GAO Report on Forest Service trail maintenance report. The dialogue will include opening remarks by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Dr. Gregory Miller, President of AHS, followed by small group discussions focused on each of the three themes, summarized report-outs to the full group, and a discussion on next steps and any follow-up. During the break-out sessions, participants will have a chance to engage and share ideas with co-hosts Chief Tidwell and Dr. Miller, Forest Service National Director of Recreation Joe Meade, and lead executives from FICOR agencies.

In total, the Forest Service will host three “Experience Recreation Stewardship through Connections” dialogue events to coincide with June as Great Outdoors Month across America.  The topics for each of the events have been selected to generate creative thinking about increasing citizen engagement, innovative collaboration, and connecting people to the great outdoors.  Topics are as follows:

1. Trails Connect: Connecting people with each other, their community, their heritage, and their public lands through an outstanding, valued, and sustainable system of trails.

2. Inspiring Citizen Stewards: Connecting and expanding volunteer/partner engagement, with an emphasis on engaging the next generation of citizen stewards and leaders.

3. Strengthening Voices for Outdoor Recreation: Connecting and strengthening strategic alliances and collaborative voices for the advancement of America’s Great Outdoors.

This national, interagency dialogue will take place in Washington, DC at the national headquarters of the US Forest Service and will initiate a national conversation about the importance of trails and their future relevance and sustainability. American Hiking also sees it potentially serving as a conceptual model and catalyst to stimulate similar engagements around trails at the national, regional or local levels.  We see this as a promising and strategic development in our efforts to serve as the national voice for hikers in America.