Conserving Trail Corridors: The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

  • Elizabeth ThomasEmail author
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


Recreation-based land conservation provides numerous benefits for recreationists, local communities (by attracting tourism), the ecosystem (by protecting habitat), and migrating wildlife (by establishing corridors). This study examines the social and decision process along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 4265-km-long hiking trail beginning at the US–Mexico border and ending at the US–Canada border, and the trail’s 1.6-km-wide corridor. The trail enters 3 states, 7 national parks, Native American sovereignties, 25 national forests, 33 wildernesses, and at least 73 towns and is subject to the local, state, and federal restrictions and regulations of each jurisdiction. This study of the PCT appraises land use decisions along the PCT as they apply to meeting the common interest and advancing human dignity. Using the policy sciences framework, this case study examines the trail through a problem-oriented approach and concludes that decision making can better meet the common interest by further engaging participants at the local level and taking a bottom-up approach. In order to ensure that decisions regarding the public land and the public resource of the trail meet common interest goals across the range and scale, it is proposed that participants should engage in many localized, community-based, adaptive governance models based on interactive participation among all stakeholders. Many small-scale prototypes can serve as adaptive governance models for implementation along a national scenic trail.


Large-scale conservation Trails Recreation Conservation Land management Public lands Forest service Gateway communities Public–private partnership Adaptive management 



This research was made possible through financial support from the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship and the Yale Masters Travel Fund. I am grateful to Susan Clark, Erin Savage, Catherine Picard, Aaron M. Hohl, and Brian Davidson for reviewing drafts. Special thanks to Beth Boyst and the staff at the PCTA, American Hiking Society, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Catamount Trails Association, Connecticut Forests & Parks Association, Green Mountain Club, Kingdom Trails Association, Vermont Association of Snow Travelers and the agency representatives, local people, businesses, and users who shared their stories and insight to make this chapter possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale School of Forestry & Environmental StudiesNew HavenUSA

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