by Cosmo Catalano, AMC Western Massachusetts Chapter, A.T. Committee

Just What is a Local Management Plan?

Most trail clubs probably have a LMP (Local Management Plan) as part of their management paperwork…somewhere.  Perhaps some of the “old timers” in the club might know what it is–and maybe even where to find it.  A few clubs might have done a “recent” update to their LMP in the past 10 years–but many have not.

What good is it?  Why does my club need to have one (or update the old one)?  Put simply, an LMP describes in detail everything the club does and who it does it with. It’s also a requirement of the Comprehensive Plan, a partnership “Founding Document” that describes the framework of the Cooperative Management System (CMS).  A club’s Local Management Plan keeps the CMS alive and up to date with changing policies, regulations and club resources. It is partly aspirational, can serve as an indicator of a club’s success, and outline areas that could use more attention. It’s also a nuts and bolts instruction manual for how a club’s section of trail is locally managed by the variety of partners. The LMP could (in its best form) enable a new volunteer leader or agency staff person to find out what to do in almost any situation that might arise.

  • Say one of your maintainers reports a teen beer party on the Trail near a neighborhood. Who responds to that? The local Police Department? Forest Rangers? State Police? National Park Service (NPS) Chief Ranger? What is the contact info for each of those folks? Are there already arrangements in place about who is responsible for what?
  • You get a cranky email from a hiker who got lost on a side trail feeding the A.T. Is that side trail the club’s responsibility? If not, who is responsible for it, who is the land manager if the trail is outside of Corridor Lands?
  • A local running club wants to hold a race that includes a section of the A.T. Is there a policy regarding events like this? Who needs to approve the race? Is there a permit required? Who issues the permit?
  • A Corridor Monitor reports a mountain bike group building a new route on Trail lands but it doesn’t cross the A.T. What is the reporting protocol? Is this a serious violation? Who should be notified, and with what urgency?

I’ve been a trail volunteer since 1998, and in club leadership since 1999 (yes, I started  early–and have enjoyed nearly every minute)–so I know a lot of answers to questions like this for my club’s section–mostly because I’ve been around a long time.  But in 2023, my club will have a new Chairperson that has only been with us for about 4 years.  “Downloading” 20 years of information to our new club leader in the next year is pretty much impossible–even if I could remember it all.

The LMP captures the details of formal, new, and/or long standing roles and relationships with land managers and important trail neighbors (maybe the state highway department, for example).  Sharing the LMP process with state and town government and EMS folks is a great way to get a conversation going before an incident arises, and connect them with key Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), NPS or United States Forest Service (USFS) agency folks. It details ATC policy and critical agency regulations that apply pretty much to everything we do.

Here’s an added bonus: whether it is in “the box” of paper that gets passed on to upcoming leaders or on a thumb drive someplace, using the LMP table of contents is a great way to sort out where a particular memo, or doc should go so it can be found again 5 years from now, or where to find information about that trail neighbor who let you cross their land in 2011 as a shortcut to a project site.

A Real Life Example.  My club had an instance where one of our land managers planned a logging operation on a stand of non-native spruce that was planted in the 1930’s as a “cover crop” on land that had then been newly acquired for a state forest.  With the trees now past maturity and creating a monoculture forest ecosystem, they planned to log off the entire stand, maximize income from this harvest and start the tract on a course for a more diverse forest in the future.  But our management plan creates management zone around the Trail on state lands, providing a 600ft buffer within which the A.T. is the primary resource to be managed for. The forester had never heard of this arrangement, but because the LMP detailed the relationship, we were able to work closely with him on this and subsequent cuttings to preserve the Trail experience.

A task force of ATC staff and club volunteers is updating ATC’s Local Management Planning Guide (LMPG) to reduce the bulk (80+ pages) and develop instead a framework where clubs and partners can record their management goals and action items for each part of the developing plan.  It will include links to relevant ATC policies and agency regulations and operating procedures. This will help reduce the sheer word processing load that has been a challenge for clubs to create and keep current. It can be customized to each club’s specific management relationships. ATC regional staff are available to assist as you embark on this project.