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Cooperative Management

The Cooperative Management System is the strength of the public-private partnership necessary to meet the challenges of managing the diverse resource of the Appalachian Trail.The success of the Cooperative Management System is supported through a number of agreements, outlined below, and close partner communication.

Guiding Documents

The A.T. Comprehensive Plan describes the underlying philosophy of the A.T. and the unique nature of volunteer involvement in the Trail project. It commits federal agencies to cooperation with ATC and Trail clubs and provides general policy direction for land protection and Trail management.


Appalachian National Scenic Trail Foundation Document articulates the purpose, significance of the Trail, its important resources, values, and interpretive themes that tell the Trail’s story. Although it is not a decision-making document and does not include actions or management strategies, it describes a shared understanding of what is most important about the trail. In this capacity, the Foundation Document will reestablish the underlying guidance for future management and planning decisions for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Because many of the trail’s original planning documents are out of date, preparing the Foundation Document is the first step for considering the trail’s future planning and study needs.

A.T. Comprehensive Plan

Foundation Document


Important Agreements

The Cooperative Agreement defines roles and responsibilities of ATC and the National Park Service in the management of the A.T.

Volunteer Service Agreements between individual volunteers or groups with federal agency land management partners enable volunteer service on the A.T. and extend certain protections to volunteers.

Other agreements also exist, between myriad partners. Many of those agreements are summarized here.

Cooperative Agreement

More about Volunteer Service Agreements


Management Resources

Due to the decentralized nature of Appalachian Trail management, it is vital for partners to stay in close communication and have familiarity with management policies and decisions that relate to the Appalachian Trail and its administration.


Local Management Plans

Developed by clubs in coordination with their partners, Local Management Plans describe the section management tasks, assesses partners’ contributions to management, assigns responsibilities and provides a standard procedure to identify site-specific actions needed and the process to be followed.

Local Management Plans


ATC Policies & Guidelines

Developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in cooperation with agency partners and with guidance from A.T. clubs, A.T. management policies are developed to offer direction to support managing the Trail as a single continuous footpath, while recognizing the necessity to adapt and respond to specific local regulations, traditions and resources.

ATC Management Policies


Land Management Agency Plans

The network of land management agencies that host the A.T. is vast and management plans vary. A.T. partners should be familiar with rules, regulations, and management guidance that relate to the Trail. At every opportunity, A.T. partners are encouraged to provide input on the development or modification of management plans as they impact the A.T.

NPS Regulations


Project Planning

Whether undertaking routine maintenance or a more significant endeavor, find the resources for planning your next project on the Appalachian Trail.

Project Planning Resources