Appalachian Trail Histories

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Trails For America (1965)

Trails for America. Report on the Nationwide Trail Study (1965)

On February 8, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to take up an aggressive conservation agenda. In what became known as his "Natural Beauty Speech," Johnson pointed to the growing pollution of America's waterways, forests, and cities, and the rapidly diminishing wild places of the country. And he urged Congress to act to reverse the rapid decline of the American environment.

"For centuries Americans have drawn strength and inspiration from the beauty of our country. It would be a neglectful generation indeed, indifferent alike to the judgment of history and the command of principle, which failed to preserve and extend such a heritage for its descendants."

In his speech, Johnson called for the rapid expansion of the network of walking trails in the United States, through a cooperative program between the states and the federal government. The goal of this ambitious plan would be, "more than hundred thousand miles of trails in our National Forests and Parks."

In response to Johnson's message, Secretary of the Interior Morris Udall directed his agency to conduct a nationwide trail study, the result of which was the reportĀ Trails for America. The report included in its recommendations that a limited number of national scenic trails should be established and that: "As the initial unit of the system, the existing Appalachian Trail, which extends 2,000 miles from Mt. Katahdin, Maine, through 14 states to Springer Mountain, Georgia, should be authorized immediately as a national scenic trail."