Recent Work to Protect the Outdoors
We are proud to share with you these snapshots of just some of our conservation work this last year. Across the region and in every program, we are advancing AMC's mission of promoting the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region.
After allowing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire despite a 50-year track record of protecting special places all over the United States, Congress finally reauthorized the program for three years and provided it $450 million, the highest funding level since 2010. The Highlands Conservation Act, a key program of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, received $10 million in 2016, the first year that the program was fully funded since its inception in 2004.
AMC celebrated the designation of the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, a new 87,500-acre national monument east of Baxter State Park in Maine. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument joins a diverse matrix of public and privately conserved lands in the Maine Woods, including AMC’s 70,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands.
AMC celebrated the release of $5 million in Land for Maine’s Future bonds – a key source of conservation funding in Maine - early in the year. These funds for important land conservation projects had been held back by Governor LePage, despite widespread voter approval of the bonds.
The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend celebrated 5 years of events – reaching more than 60,000 participants with over 1,000 events over the five years, as well as celebrating the 100th birthday of Acadia National Park.
AMC played a lead role in drafting needed revisions to improve New Hampshire’s Rivers Management Protection Program and Instream Flow program, and successfully achieved legislative approval of these changes.
AMC published an updated Pennsylvania Highlands Land and Trails Tracking System. This tracking system provides valuable information to focus land protection and trail development across the PA Highlands. The new system includes updated information on lands protected since 2012, showing that over 21,000 acres of new open space has been protected in the region in just the last two years.
The North Country Trails Volunteer Program expanded its reach internationally by leading our first Volunteer Vacation in Costa Rica in partnership with the Sendero Pacifico, a long trail that goes from the cloud forest of Monteverde to the Gulf of Nicoya. We’ll be returning in 2017 to help build another new spur trail, this one to a hut they are building based on the designs of AMCs own Galehead Hut.
In our first season at Harriman Outdoor Center in the New York Highlands, AMC launched four weeks of Teen Trail Crews providing 1,180 hours of volunteer trail stewardship from 30 participants, largely clearing blowdowns and defining the footbed of the Pond Loop Trail. Four additional weeks of Teen Trail Crews were held at Mohican Outdoor Center and were also very successful, completing projects on the Coppermine Trail as well as the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail.
AMC established the first two Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail Campsites in Massachusetts - located in Montague and Whately, MA.
AMC worked with local groups and volunteers to build a new 76.5-foot boardwalk over the Mill River, a previously flooded section of the Bay Circuit Trail in the Georgetown-Rowley State Forest. Also, the BCT Volunteer Programs explored new partnerships, such as working with the National Park Service at Minute Man National Historic Park. In total during the year, 202 volunteers performed 1,345 hours of service impacting approximately 5 miles of trail.
On the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network, AMC advanced a 3.3-mile rail to trail conversion to close a key gap in the system, which has now completed its engineering phase and is poised for construction in 2017. Also in the Pennsylvania Highlands, AMC’s Highlands Trail Stewards crew kicked off a very successful first year, establishing a new trail network in Ringing Rocks County Park outside of Philadelphia.
AMC built a 250’ floating boardwalk in Southwick, MA at “the Massachusetts” trailhead of the New England Trail to replace bog bridges upon bog bridges, turning a significantly wet stretch into an enjoyable one. The Berkshire Chapter New England Trail Committee also made significant repairs to the NET’s Mount Grace Shelter.
Once again, the Roving Conservation Crew (RCC) spent the summer and fall traveling around New England constructing, reconstructing, and maintaining trail including a 250’ floating boardwalk for the New England Trail (NET) in Southwick Ma., a bridge for the Town of Durham, NH capable of carrying 10,000 lbs., and two campsites along the Connecticut Paddlers Trail in Western MA, including a 55’ staircase. The RCC also built a brand new trail to the summit of Glassface Mountain in Rumford, ME, performed trail construction and maintenance at Greylock Glen, MA , and made trail improvements at Burnt Island, ME.
Between the annual trail patrols and substantial technical trail repair and rehabilitation projects on the Crawford Path and the Mahoosuc, Champney Falls, Sabbaday Brook, and Nineteen Mile Brook trails, the White Mountain Professional Trail Crew cleaned 5,887 drainages, removed 439 blowdowns, installed 1,521’ of bog bridges, relocated 1,000’ of trail, installed 451’ of rock and wood water bars, installed 113 rock steps, and installed 21 metal rungs (to replace a steep Mahoosuc Trail ladder with a much more durable solution).
Volunteer trail adopters and weeklong-plus volunteer trail crews organized out of our North Country office this year gave 25,714 hours maintaining and reconstructing trails at the White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire State lands, Maine State lands, Baxter State Park, AMC’s Maine Woods and Cold River Camps, Baxter State Park, Acadia National Park, local private land trusts, and trails much farther afield on the Pacific Crest Trail, Virgin Islands National Park, and Costa Rica. A total of 963 volunteer trail crew volunteers built 1 rock retaining wall, 1 timber cribbing, 1 bridge, 48 water bars, 159 steps, 1,551 feet of scree walls, 61 drainage dips totaling 345 feet of ditching, 5,517 feet of new trail, and 23 bog bridges. The crews maintained 5,020 water bars, 1,977 feet of scree walls, 44 bog bridges, 139 cairns, 2,239 drainage dips totaling 1,491 feet of ditching, 591 blowdowns, closed 3,181 feet of trail, and created 1,086.5 feet of new trail.
AMC’s Southern New England Teen crews play an integral part in maintaining trails throughout the Berkshires and Connecticut Valley. This year, 14 teen trail crews gave 7,362 hours maintaining and reconstructing trail on the Appalachian Trail, the New England Trail, the Berkshire Natural Resource Council’s Clam River property, AMC’s Noble View Outdoor Center, and Mount Wachusett. The crews constructed 32 new steps, installed 4 rock water bars, 1 drainage dip, 32 gargoyles totaling 53 feet, 77 bog bridges, 80 square feet of rock turnpike, 1,800 feet of sidehill, 1 leadoff ditch totaling 27 feet, 4 scree walls totaling 91 feet, 8 crush pads totaling 107 square feet, constructed 5,550 square feet brush-in and set 230 rocks. The crews also maintained 7 rock water bars, 27 drainage dips, brushed in 65 square feet of trail, cleared 10 drainages totaling 154 feet, removed 4 blowdowns, cleared 550 feet of corridor, and 95 feet of brush.
AMC continues our leading role in opposing the Northern Pass transmission line, which would construct over 1,100 new steel transmission towers up to 160 feet tall along 132 miles through the heart of NH to carry Quebec hydropower into Southern New England. While we have successfully seen the proposed route shift out of the White Mountain National Forest, the project would still unnecessarily desecrate a swath of the northern forest region, and compromise the interconnection of land and culture that defines the state. On the demand side of the equation, AMC continues to promote environmentally preferable siting criteria for Massachusetts’ planned 2017 clean energy procurement RFP, and also saw success with a 50% reduction of the planned MA hydro procurement, substituting offshore wind that would provide energy generated much closer to where it is used.
AMC participated in a winter press conference with other conservation partners and the Falmouth High School Nordic Ski Team to talk about the impacts of climate change on Maine people, the tourism economy, and our traditional winter activities. We also supported a comprehensive solar bill that would have expanded access to solar energy for Maine residents and businesses.
AMC’s Air Quality Staff Scientist testified in Washington DC at the US Environmental Protection Agency hearings on updating the Regional Haze Rule (RHR). AMC has been working to reduce regional haze pollution for nearly 30 years by monitoring concentrations of fine particulate matter that degrade visibility in the White Mountains, surveying visitors about views under varying air pollution levels, and through technical work on proposed rules and policies.
AMC was successful in helping to convince the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to approve radar activated lighting technology for tall wind turbines, whereby the lights remain off unless an approaching plane is detected. AMC has promoted this technology during permitting processes as a component of mitigating wind farm impacts, pending FAA acceptance.
In Pennsylvania, the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline threatens the Appalachian Trail. AMC has intervened in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review of this project and has filed extensive comments, many of which have led to route changes and other adjustments.