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Presidential Ponderings

Jay DApril 2019

Will it ever stop raining?  It seems as if we have had enough rain this winter to last for a couple of years.  I guess we have been lucky, with the warmer temperatures that it wasn’t snow.

The Three Legged Stool

If you have attended one or two meetings with the Forest Service or Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) you probably have heard about the famed “Three Legged Stool”.  This describes the relationship with our partners, the Forest Service (FS) and ATC.  This is also referred to as the Cooperative Management System.

The Appalachian Trail was born in the twenties and completed in 1937.  In 1968, with the passage of the National Trails System Act, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) was established as a unit of the National Park Service (NPS).  In 1984, the Department of Interior, through the NPS, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) (later changed to Appalachian Trail Conservancy). This described the scope of authority and responsibility ATC had on the trail.

The ATC then entered into MOUs with the trail clubs (of which there are now 31), defining their description of responsibility.  As you can imagine, this would almost be impossible to accomplish today.  ATC is now in the process of updating the document with the clubs.

Since the trail runs through multiple land management agencies, national and state forests, national and state parks, etc. the clubs need to have agreements with those agencies as well.  In Georgia we are lucky that our section of the trail is fully contained within the Chattahoochee Oconee National Forest (C-ONF).  This means GATC has only one land management agency with which to cooperate.  It also means we do not have to conduct boundary monitoring, as the trail is fully contained on public lands.

Our club has a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) with the C-ONF.  This document fully describes our activities that include trail management, maintenance, outreach, conservation etc.  This was revised two years ago and usually is renewed every five years.

The Trail Ambassador program has a separate VSA with the Forest Service.  At the time I negotiated this agreement it was expeditious to create a separate agreement rather than completely redo the club’s VSA.  I suppose at some point in the future the agreements will be combined.

PATHE

I am looking forward to the upcoming PATHE meeting on March 15th.  This was postponed due to the government shutdown.  It is very important that we hold these sessions because there are many things going on that need to be shared and communicated with our partners.  Please contact me for meeting details. Club members are invited and encouraged to attend.

The PATHE NEPA committee has been working hard on identifying and classifying all the campsites on our trail.  They are being classified in five steps from front country to total Wilderness.  This is a daunting job that Ben Barry started and we have to keep things rolling along.  My thanks go to Bill Bryant for taking over this responsibility.

The Education Committee is active with the objective of educating users (hikers) on the Trail, especially during the thru hiker season.  Brent Binion and Chloe de Camera of ATC put together a great program for the Trail Ambassador meeting in early February.  They are also developing programs for the presentations at the A.T. Basecamp (a room in the Visitor Center devoted to thru-hiker education) at Amicalola Falls State Park (AFSP).  The four top focal points are: food storage, waste disposal, camp site selections and registering at www.atcamp.org and Basecamp.

It is a big job trying to inspire four thousand hikers each year on how to mitigate their impact on the resource.  We should have the Leave No Trace Interpretive Trail at AFSP installed soon.  Bill Bryant has undertaken this project, along with the Trailhead kiosks.  These signs will be along the first hundred yards of the Approach Trail to remind hikers of the seven principles.

I look forward to the third annual Trail Skills Workshop next October.  I think it is very important to show new members and refresh existing members on how to build and maintain sustainable trails.  In addition, there will be other classes during this two day event.  Stay tuned for more details.

Legislative Updates

Recently, hiking supporters from all over the country met in Washington DC for the annual “Hike the Hill”.  There were meetings with various legislators to promote items central to our cause of promoting and protecting our wild areas.  ATC offered updates on several matters relating to the A.T.

Public lands related legislation has passed the Senate and is headed to the House, including permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  LWCF is used to acquire adjoining significant and meaningful tracts along public lands.  This funding comes from a small percentage of off-shore drilling receipts and not from taxpayers. 

In the House and Senate two companion Restore Our Parks Act (ROPA) bills were introduced.  These bills address the serious backlog of deferred maintenance in
America’s National Parks. It is estimated that the Appalachian Trail has a $20 million backlog.  Of course, this would be much bigger were it not for the small armies of volunteers maintaining the trail.

The ATC will have materials for members to write to congressional representatives to encourage their support.  It is very important that our elected representatives know how strongly we feel about protecting the wild areas in our country.  If you are interested, please contact me for information and sample letters for this purpose.

I am looking forward to spring.  With all the rain we have had, I am sure water will be plentiful on the trail!  As usual, there will be much needed maintenance. Be sure to sign up for our third Saturday work trips, as your help is always needed.  If you are looking for a section to maintain, contact Tom Lamb, Trails Director.

See y’all on the trail!

Jay