our Recent Work
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.
Speak Up for the Outdoors
Land & Water
Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanently Reauthorized
On March 12, 2019, the Land and Water Conservation Fund was permanently reauthorized as part of a sweeping public lands package that was signed into law. The legislation had passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House (363-62) and the Senate (92-8) the previous month. This historic victory for public lands and recreation was the culmination of a years-long effort by Congressional champions on both sides of the aisle, and by stakeholders across the country, to preserve the unique character of this program created as a conservation offset for energy development. “AMC is proud to partner with bipartisan Congressional champions in support of LWCF, and we thank them for years of tireless advocacy on behalf of our mountains, forests, trails, coastlines, and parks. We look forward to continuing to work with the LWCF Coalition and stakeholders across the country to enact full, dedicated funding of LWCF for all of us who love to be outdoors,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Wasting no time, in April legislation to permanently dedicate full and continuing funding was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Senators Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine. In June companion legislation was introduced in the House by a bipartisan group of Representatives, including Reps. Van Drew of New Jersey, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Reps. Zeldin and Katko of New York. Through the tireless efforts of AMC’s staff, our members and volunteers, and our many partners in the LWCF Coalition, these two bills now boast a bipartisan majority of the House and Senate as cosponsors. Chairman McGovern of Massachusetts is leading a strong effort in the House to push for action on this legislation on the House Floor, which we are optimistic will soon bring more success to this critical campaign for our outdoors.
Northeast Alpine Flower Watch
Funded by the National Geographic Society, the AMC’s Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project on iNaturalist completed its first official season with success, capturing thousands of observations from hundreds of hikers. AMC worked with partners at Baxter State Park, Green Mountain Club, and Adirondack Mountain Club to launch this citizen science initiative that tracks alpine plant flowering and fruiting times in relation to climate change. The iNaturalist app and online community have proven to be an excellent tool for monitoring plant seasonal development in mountain environments.
Appalachian Trail Land Protection
In September, AMC joined with partners in Pennsylvania to celebrate the completion of the final phase of a 4,350-acre open space project at Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge, protecting a 5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail near Wind Gap. The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge preserves forests along the Kittatinny Ridge important for recreation also to support a critical north-south migration corridor for birds and species adapting to climate change. The forests also provide water quality benefits for the more than 15 million residents that rely on the Delaware River and its surrounding watershed for drinking water.
Protecting Significant Views Along the Pennsylvania Circuit Trails System
AMC researchers published the final reports of the Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Project for 30 trail segments. The project assessed several of the multi-use Circuit Trails of Greater Philadelphia to identify potential land conservation opportunities within the trail’s viewshed based on a conservation assessment that scores and ranks priority lands. The results will guide local land protection efforts to preserve the visual ambiance of their trail systems. Learn more about the trail visual assessment project on the Pennsylvania Highlands website. The results of the Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Project were presented at the Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in May and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Information Resources Exchange Group in June.
Massachusetts State Parks Funding
After several years of declining budgets and more recent but gradual and small increases, the Massachusetts Legislature infused the Massachusetts State Parks and Recreation budget with $7 million–a 17% increase to fund full-time staff and operations for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). DCR manages the ninth largest state park system in the country and the largest public land base in Massachusetts that includes nearly 2,000 miles of trails, and 450,000 acres for public recreation, reserves, wildlife habitat, and drinking water supply protection.
Delaware River Means
AMC continues to grow public engagement and interest in the Delaware River by hosting themed, photo-submission contests through the online Delaware River Means campaign. During the 2019 #DelawareRiverMeansLIFE contest, participants submitted digital photos that depict the significance of the Delaware River. The contest reached 200,000 people, saw 5,166 unique page views, and generated 959 entries or votes. Two winners were selected, and each received an outdoor-themed prize. In addition to the online contest, AMC manages a Delaware River Means Facebook community to bring people together around their love for the Delaware River, connect members with live events in the watershed, post opportunities for advocacy, and highlight river-related news.
Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network
AMC celebrated the groundbreaking of the Upper Bucks Rail Trail, a critical 3.0-mile section of paved shared-use trail now in the construction phase. This trail will link Lehigh County to the north to existing PHTN trail sections in Bucks County to the south and should be open for use by summer 2020.
New England National Scenic Trail
AMC led a second year of the Holyoke Youth Crew to complete 1,300 hours of trail work on the New England Trail over the course of 7 weeks. Their projects included building a bridge and a rock staircase, installing signage, and cutting a new switchback. Holyoke is a designated “Gateway City” in Massachusetts and the crew is assembled through a partnership with CareerPoint in Holyoke for a combined impact of community engagement and trail stewardship.
CT River Paddlers Trail
The Massachusetts stretch of the Connecticut River Paddlers trail is now completed with the construction of two campsites in 2019. The campsites, one on Elwell Island in Northampton, MA and another on the Fannie Stebbins Unit of the Silvio O. Conte US Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Longmeadow, MA, were constructed by AMC crews and will allow paddlers to camp and paddle from New Hampshire all the way down to Enfield, Connecticut.
Appalachian Mountain Club’s Southern New England Region (SNER) Trails Program
This summer, the SNER Trails program had three fully registered crews running simultaneously for eight weeks straight. Teen programs that began in June had 91 young volunteers, twice as many as last year. Major site improvements were made to the new Southern NE Trails Department headquarters at the beautiful Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, MA. These improvements were completed in time for regional trail crew leader training where thirteen AMC teen crew leaders, three ridgerunners, and seven support staff attended the thorough ten-day training.
For the tenth year running, AMC spike crews were working on Mount Prospect in Massachusetts. A Recreational Trails Program grant funded the opening of a new switchback on the historic Appalachian Trail. The crew also received a new RTP grant to begin similar sustainable work in 2020 on the opposite side of Prospect. This year, the National Park Service doubled its funding to support a paid youth NET trail crew from Holyoke after a successful pilot program in 2018. As a result of this increased funding, SNER was able to double our offerings of paid youth crew opportunities this season. In total, there were 126 Southern New England Trails Participants who contributed 5,837 hours with a total of 8,367 hours when combined with Staff contributions. Of these SNER Trails totals, 12 paid youth crew contributed 1,282 hours over six project locations.
One of these trail crews was the first all-girls spike crew in Massachusetts. The group consisted of half returning volunteers and half newcomers. They quickly bonded together to accomplish an amazing amount of work! All trail crews received a two day Leave No Trace trainer course in the middle of the summer. Finally, in recognition of all this great work, SNER received a MassTrails Grant from the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) totaling over $50,000, ensuring that more of this incredible work will continue for years to come.
AMC Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG)
This year nine Berlin High School students completed another successful season of trail stewardship and hands-on job skill development with Berlin High School. Under the guidance of AMC trail crew leaders Becca McNeely and Emily Cattarin, these NH-JAG students learned practical job skills and positive work habits. These students also gained awareness of career opportunities in outdoor resource management and recreation. The nine members of the JAG Crew completed 1127 hours of work this summer in various locations throughout the White Mountains. Some examples of the great work by this crew include: installing rock staircases on Mt. Jasper, removing blowdowns on the Great Glen Trails, bridge construction on the WMCC Nature Trail, and installing drainage systems on the Rattle River Trail. In addition to learning from local resources at each location they worked at, the JAG crew spent a week on Job Exploration, learning from the various departments housed within the AMC Pinkham Notch visitor center.
Backcountry Campsite and Caretaker Program
This year, there were 18,328 total overnight users with 32% of users coming from official groups! An emphasis throughout the year was on creating new strategies to divert hikers from some especially popular sites like Guyot which can regularly reach 100+ overnight users. The Thru-Hiker program is growing steadily with 1,232 passes sold this year. Passes are dramatically improving the dialogue and relationship between hikers and AMC. A few more numbers from this season: over 100 rocks set, 12 bog bridges built, three native timber ladders built, 3,500 gallons of human waste composted, and 18 impact sites revegetated. Finally, this year’s major project was the full replacement of the 42-year-old Guyot shelter which has housed over 100,000 overnight users throughout its lifetime. We are looking ahead to building 4 new platforms at Full Goose campsite in Maine to minimize sprawl and reduce the number of illegal impacted sites.
White Mountain Professional Trail Crew
Incredible work was completed in the face of a long winter bringing difficult trail conditions, a smaller crew size of 12 people, and continued effects from the 2017 Halloween storm blowdowns. On the 200th anniversary of the Crawford Path (A.T.) the 100h AMC Professional Trail Crew worked nine weeks building rock steps and improving lengthy sections of trail. Seven of those nine weeks took place in the Alpine Zone.
Many improvements were made to the Mt. Willard trail including 38 rock steps and drainage improvements. Some materials had to be quarried hundreds of feet off trail then high-lined up steep embankments! Finally, important improvements were made to the Osgood Trail (A.T.) and Old Speck Trail (A.T.).
Bay Circuit Trail Paid Youth Crew
2019 marked the inaugural year of the Bay Circuit Trail paid youth crew. In year one, six Boston-area youth completed almost 700 hours of work. This work consisted of 6 new 8’ bridges, 1,650’ new trail treadway, 3 drainage dips, 13 blowdowns removed, and 1,400’ brushed trail. Much of this incredible trail work took place at two major trail projects, a re-route of the Bay Circuit Trail at the JC Phillips Wildlife Sanctuary in Boxford, MA, and a re-route at Prospect Hill in Rowley, MA.
North Country Trails Volunteer Program
One major highlight from the season was the continued participation in the Crawford Path bicentennial collaboration, through the White Mountain Trail Collective. Three of the Teen Trail Crews, two Volunteer Vacation Crews, and several Custom Crews and One-Day Volunteers contributed to the ongoing restoration of this historically significant trail. Teen Trail Crews engaged 44 14 to19-year-olds in 1,770.75 hours of trail stewardship work in the White Mountains as well as at AMC’s Cardigan Reservation.
AMC continued its valuable partnership with Acadia National Park through the Volunteer Vacations based at Echo Lake Camp, thanks to support from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. AMC volunteers contributed to the restoration of another historic trail, the Seaside Path, which will help to fulfill Acadia National Park’s goal of providing community-to-park connections and alleviate vehicle congestion in the park. 65 volunteers contributed 1,278 hours as part of the Volunteer Vacations and Work Weekends programs. Finally, the Custom Crew program continues to grow and engage diverse volunteers. This year the Custom Crews included Boy Scouts, Harvard first-year students, corporate groups from IHS and Athletic Brewing Company, and a team of South- and Central American environmental specialists from the World Affairs Council. Not only do these groups contribute to trail work goals, but they also get to participate in a unique and rewarding team-building experience. 76 adults and 24 youth contributed 523 hours to improve several trails. Many of these volunteers worked on the Crawford Path, with additional work on Webster Cliff Trail (AT), Mount Willard Trail, and Square Ledge Trail, and one additional highlight was an all women’s workday.
Energy and Climate
Georgia Murray was featured in the press for her work on defeating portions of the EPA’s ozone standard that were not protective enough for forests. The ozone victory will require EPA to develop a new approach to meet Clean Air Act requirements regarding ozone as it affects forest ecosystems. In addition to AMC, the suit brought by Earthjustice included the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Parks Conservation Association, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Earthjustice also represented the American Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Physicians for Social Responsibility in opposing polluters’ challenges to the standards
Northern Pass Appeal Defeated in N.H. Supreme Court
On July 19th the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled to uphold the state’s decision not to move forward with the Northern Pass transmission project, delivering a final, fatal blow to the proposal first put forward by Eversource in 2010.
“After nearly nine long years, we are thrilled to finally see this misconceived, poorly designed, outdated overhead transmission line proposal finally laid to rest,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “As the nation’s oldest conservation and recreation organization, we have opposed this project from the get-go because of its unwarranted and unnecessary impact on New Hampshire’s iconic natural resources and character. AMC has dedicated years of staff and volunteer time to illuminating the project’s many fundamental flaws. We are proud to have been part of the overwhelming chorus of opposition to the project from partner conservation organizations, grassroots activists, landowners, municipalities, local businesses, and our membership, and we commend the Court for its principled, unanimous opinion.” Read the N.H. Supreme Court decision, Learn more about AMC’s history with Northern Pass
AMC Opposes Central Maine Power’s Transmission Line in Maine
Central Maine Power’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line (aka “son of Northern Pass”) would carve a 150-foot wide 53-mile long swath through the globally significant forests of western Maine that are renowned for their lack of development and high level of ecological connectivity. AMC intervened in opposition to this project during permitting by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In partnership with the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Trout Unlimited, AMC presented expert testimony on the impacts of this project at public hearings in May and June, with a focus on forest fragmentation, impacts to brook trout habitat, and the scenic impact to the Appalachian Trail. A decision by MDEP is expected in early 2020.
Solar Advocacy in Massachusetts
AMC led a coalition of diverse stakeholders in advocating that the state of Massachusetts include solar siting guidelines in an update to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. Unfortunately, the SMART program does not include sufficient incentives to encourage solar development on built or already disturbed environments and needs more robust disincentives for building on greenfields. Since the SMART program’s inception close to 6,000 acres of forests have been cleared in Massachusetts for large, ground-mounted solar projects.