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Tips: Public Lands Stewardship

Each trail clearing experience is going to be different. Finding a meaningful and rewarding experience will depend on your own interests and goals. Your first step toward volunteering should be to check with local trail groups. They may already have projects to join or experts properly trained in trail building.


National parks rely on volunteers to maintain trails, but if trails are maintained improperly it could prove detrimental to the natural habitat. Before you begin clearing a trail or park land, connect with a local agency or use some online training tools.

  • Adopt a trail
    • Committing to clearing human litter, sticks and other large impediments to hiking is the easiest way to help keep our nation’s trails usable. Your team can work with the agency responsible for the park and “adopt-a-trail” to clear for the summer.
    • If your town doesn’t have an adopt-a-trail program, create one modeled after successful examples in Arizona , Massachusetts or Wisconsin.
  • Clearing invasive species
    • Invasive species damage natural habitats by crowding out native wildlife and disrupting the ecosystem. Many invasive species spread rapidly and are costly to combat, making effective volunteer projects particularly important. Once a habitat is overtaken by an invasive species, there is often little that can be done to reestablish the natural ecosystem.
    • In 2005, the Federal government spent $8.1 million to clear invasive species. The total amount of invasive species clearance needed nationwide would cost $107 million.
    • Help us remove invasive species. Before removing invasive species, take the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Invasive Species Training Module.
  • Prevent water erosion and other natural damage
    • Water is a trail’s worst enemy. Storms can wash out trails and sever tree limbs, blocking a trail or making it unsafe for hikers. Even normal levels of rainfall can cause erosion and have long term effects on a trail.
    • In 2007, The United States Forest Service published the Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook. is a beginner’s manual for building or maintaining a sustainable trail. At a minimum, all trail construction or maintenance volunteers should review the Forest Service Notebook before participating in a trail project.
  • Get local guidance


  • Trail maintenance volunteering can be physically strenuous. Without the proper training and safety precautions it could be dangerous. It is crucial that before performing any trail work, all volunteers have been trained in the proper use of tools and safety equipment.
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