Since the 1980s, the Green Mountain Club has sought to secure a permanent route for the Long Trail. While in the early years, the club could rely on simple handshake agreements with landowners, a few threats of trail closure and development near the trail inspired the club to kick off its Long Trail Protection Campaign.
The Long Trail Protection Campaign has resulted in the conservation of more than 25,000 acres of Vermont forest land through which the Long Trail and its side trails cross. The club has protected more than 78 miles of the Long Trail and continues to strive to conserve the remaining 6.5 miles of the trail (Note: much of the trail was conserved before this campaign thanks to the national forest and state lands). With only a few miles left unprotected, the club continues to work with willing landowners to provide the public with long term certainty that the trail will never close.
The club’s Long Trail Protection Campaign has always relied exclusively on willing landowner sales and easements. The club has partnered with the state of Vermont to transfer many of the lands it has conserved into the state forest system.
As the club has conserved more and more land, it has also taken on much of the responsibility of stewarding that land. In cooperation with its public partners, the Green Mountain Club’s staff and volunteers work to maintain property boundaries, monitor the corridor for possible misuse, and react strongly and appropriately when misuse occurs.
Managing and maintaining the 445-mile Long Trail System is a complex task. Over the years, as use of the trail has risen and outside pressures such as development have increased, management of the Long Trail has evolved from merely trail building and maintenance into a comprehensive program focused on:
- trail building and maintenance
- protecting natural resources from overuse
- upholding landowner rights
- protecting the trail from development
- safeguarding special natural areas
- backcountry sanitation – GMC Backcountry Sanitation Manual
- educating hikers
- publishing guidebooks and maps
The task is accomplished through a cooperative effort among GMC staff and volunteers, , the , the National Park Service, the , and private landowners.