WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 9, 2016) – The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) urged Congressional representatives and land management agencies in Washington, D.C. this week to support high-priority land protection projects that are vital to the future of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), America’s most iconic trail. As participants in the annual event “Hike the Hill,” the ATC was one of many national scenic and historic trail organizations advocating for the protection of important conservation lands to be acquired by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land management agencies. The ATC’s advocacy efforts are timed well with the launch of its Landscape Conservation Initiative, a historic effort to bring together a variety of public and private partners to promote and conserve ecological, cultural, historic and economic values across the A.T. landscape.
The ATC supports funding of a variety of high-priority projects across the span of the 2,190-mile Trail. Project funding, which is available from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), would aid in multiple land protection benefits, including improved access to public lands, watershed protection, the preservation of viewsheds, the avoidance of landscape fragmentation, and loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species. President Obama’s recent 2017 budget recommendations include $900 million, or full funding, for the LWCF; full and dedicated funding would demonstrate strong bipartisan support for the program, which conserves national parks and forests, trails, and other public lands.
The landscape surrounding the A.T. connects rural communities and working farms and forests; squeezes through rapidly developing regions; and provides the foundation for unparalleled outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities. To protect these unique aspects of the A.T., the ATC is asking for funding for major Trail projects, including a tract in the Roan Highlands on the North Carolina and Tennessee border that boasts unparalleled views, unique botanical communities, and critical habitat for rare species; Shoe Creek in Virginia, part of the iconic vista from Spy Rock, a popular destination along the A.T.; land in southern New York under immediate threat for residential development but, if acquired, would provide a viable alternative for relocating a portion of the A.T. out of a confirmed bog turtle dwelling and nesting site while also protecting the predominant Cat Rocks vista; and a forest in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, which would protect valuable watersheds while creating an effective buffer around the Trail from industrial development.
“Although 99 percent of the Appalachian Trail footpath and the surrounding greenway are protected by federal or state ownership, many of the Trail’s pristine viewsheds, watersheds and natural resources are vulnerable to external threats which impact the hiking experience,” said the ATC’s Senior Director of Conservation Laura Belleville. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s advocacy efforts, as well as its leadership of the Landscape Conservation Initiative, are designed to promote and conserve the many ecological, cultural, historic and economic values across the A.T.’s large landscapes.”
The ATC and the NPS officially launched the Landscape Conservation Initiative late last year in Shepherdstown, West Virginia at a workshop with enthusiastic representatives from dozens of public and private land conservation organizations. The initiative is based on the ATC’s Strategic Plan and the NPS Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s Foundation Document and Business Plan.
For more information about the ATC’s landscape protection efforts, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/conservation.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park System, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,190 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Contact: Javier Folgar
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Email: [email protected]