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August 2018

PATHE Committee

The PATHE subcommittee on camping is looking at camping in Georgia on the A.T., including shelters. It was suggested that we “tweak” the 3 zone concept in the Draft PATHE document, front country, back country and primitive.

Recently a group from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Forest Service, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards and GATC visited the Low Gap Shelter. There is a major blowdown on the blue blaze trail about 20 yards from the shelter. It is felt while not an immediate problem, a safety condition of sorts does exist.

After much review and consultation Ryan Foote, Chattooga District Ranger, identified three possible solutions to the blowdowns;

  1. Do nothing about the trees and close the trail underneath with tombstones and brush, routing traffic around.
  2. Buck the tree to clear the trail.
  3. Use dynamite (which is acceptable in a Wilderness Area).

Over the next two to four weeks Ryan wants to collect information from other forests in case there is a precedence. He will also confer with John Campbell who is in charge of Wilderness Areas in this region. Hopefully, there will be a decision announced at the July 20 meeting of PATHE.

We left the shelter area heading trail north to campsite 269, about a mile, to connect with the side trail back to where the cars were parked. The area below campsite 270 was investigated as a possible location for tent pads. It is just outside of the Wilderness Area and as such a workable location. It was not determined how big the area is and how many tent pads it could handle. There was no discussion about locating a shelter in this area.

It was pointed out that the most egregious shelter sites, where usage pushes capacity, would not be closed without alternative sites being identified. Shelters are part of the Appalachian Trail tradition, and there are no plans to eliminate them. It was also speculated that to close one shelter area and relocate it to a nearby site would be expensive and could take up to four years.

2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act

In his 1965 “Natural Beauty Message” to Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson inspired a national “system of trails” for the American people.  Congress passed the National Trails System Act, signed into law by President Johnson on October 2, 1968. The first two trails included were the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Today, the National Trails System (NTS) includes 11 National Scenic Trails and 19 National Historic Trails authorized by Congress, and more than 1,200 National Recreation Trails (including 21 National Water Trails). Preservation and development of Rail Trails is also fostered in this act.

These trails provide outdoor recreation opportunities, promote resource preservation and public access, and encourage the appreciation of the great outdoors and America’s history and cultural diversity.

I am planning a celebration of this important event on Sunday, September 16. Save the date now and look for details to be announced soon.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - Update

On June 21, 2018 nine local businesses filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) challenging the reinstatement of two long-expired mineral leases on Superior National Forest lands within the watershed of the Boundary Waters, America’s most popular Wilderness Area. The lawsuit charges that the DOI’s unlawful actions pose an immediate threat to small businesses, public health, jobs, clean water, wildlife, and the sporting and outdoor economy of Minnesota.

The lawsuit challenges DOI’s decision to abandon longstanding mineral leasing policy by distorting the plain language of the expired leases to benefit a Chilean-owned mining company with a history of pollution. This also ignored the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to withhold consent to the reinstated mineral leases because of the likelihood of harm to the water quality of the Boundary Waters and the inability to mitigate acid mine pollution in the interconnected waterways of the Wilderness.

Sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters will devastate northeastern Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy generates annually $16.7 billion in consumer spending, $4.5 billion per year in wages and salaries, and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, and it supports 140,000 direct jobs.

The Forest Service is now conducting a two-year study of its proposal to ban hardrock mining on 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters for twenty years—lands that include the areas covered by the two reinstated mineral leases. Reinstatement of leases occurred in the middle of the very study that will document the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of copper mining near the Boundary Waters.

More than 350 businesses, sportsmen groups, and conservation groups have banded together to protect the Boundary Waters from nearby copper mining.

Stop Order for MVP

Many of you may have heard that last week a federal judge issued a stay of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) permit in West Virginia, delaying the pipeline developer’s timeline for months, or longer.  The news has been a bright spot for ATC staff, our clubs and our partners who have been on the front lines as this action endorses what we’ve been saying all along – MVP is a damaging and inappropriate project.

The damage this project has made to the A.T. and to the communities around Roanoke is undeniable – and we’ve yet to see the worst part when the gashes become wider and the pipeline is installed. Already, dozens of huge earthmovers have torn down broad swaths of trees on the steep mountainsides.  ATC is committed to doing whatever can be done in monitoring, mitigating and, perhaps, seeing this bad project fully stopped. 

Trail Skills Workshop

Save the date, the Trails Skills Workshop will be held October 28 – 28, 2018. This is a great opportunity to learn or fine tune your trail working techniques and get to know fellow club members and some excellent instructors.

People will start arriving on Friday evening with class work starting Saturday morning. This year four courses will be offered: Essential Trail Maintenance, Drainage Design and Drain Dips, and Crosscut Saw Training and Certification. ATC will also be hosting a cookout dinner on Saturday.