Give the Gift of Conservation: Four memberships that help protect the AT.

With the holidays fast approaching, gift guides for outdoor enthusiasts are popping up all over the place. It’s no surprise, really; there’s an endless supply of doodads and gadgets to play with, with more interesting new versions being developed each year. But at a certain point, most hikers have their favorite pieces of gear picked out, their set ups exactly like they want them. Sure, there might be room for a little improvement here and there, but they rather take care of that themselves. At that point, what is another headlamp, another pair of socks? What do you get the hiker who has it all? How about the promise that their favorite trails stay hikable, their favorite scenery beautiful? This year, consider giving the gift of conservation (to yourself or someone else) with a membership to one of these organizations that strive to keep the great outdoors, well, great.

1. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Building a boardwalk for the AT. Photo courtesy East Hudson on Flickr.

Building a boardwalk for the AT. Photo courtesy East Hudson on Flickr.

Obvious choice number one is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, or the ATC. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of them before – heck, they’re even mentioned in the AT Glossary.  If you have hiked the AT you may have run in to their headquarters in Harper’s Ferry. If so, there’s a good chance you even had your picture taken by the ATC sign! The ATC is responsible for pretty much everything Appalachian Trail related, including but not limited to the coordination of the hiking clubs that perform trail maintenance, keeping track of all AT ‘2000-milers’, raising awareness for and on the trail, collecting data for scientific research on the flora and fauna of the Appalachians, promoting good relationships between hikers and trail towns and publishing guidebooks.

Memberships are on a yearly basis and start at a $40 donation, though those who register their 2016 thru-hike become members for free. Besides obviously supporting a great organization, membership benefits include a discount in the ATC Ultimate Trail Store, a strip map of the Appalachian Trail, volunteer opportunities and invitations to special events, and a subscription to their member magazine, A.T. Journeys.

2. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

Photo courtesy cononinoco on Flickr.

Pictured: how NOT to Leave No Trace. Photo courtesy cononinoco on Flickr.

Chances are, if you ever spent time outdoors you’ve heard of the principles of Leave No Trace, often abbreviated to LNT (once again, covered in the AT Glossary). They’re fairly simple and a must-follow for anyone who doesn’t want to be shunned and glared at angrily by other hikers. (Fun fact: following LNT instantly makes you 83% more attractive.) The seven principles of LNT, complete with a detailed description of each principle, can be found here.

So what does the LNT Center for Outdoor Ethics do? Simply put, they strive to promote these seven principles wherever they can in order to protect and preserve the outdoors. They do so primarily by raising awareness and educating people as best they can, for example by working together with other outdoor organizations and companies. And they are successful in doing so; LNT is a well-known term, and its principles are printed everywhere – even on the trowel I bought for my thru-hike.

A Leave No Trace membership has a ton of benefits alongside the promotion of the seven principles. Besides receiving a t-shirt or waterbottle, a sticker and a a subscription to Leave No Trace’s eNews, members also get discounts on some major outdoor brands, like 25% off Big Agnes essentials. Membership costs $20 for students and regular memberships start at $35, though it takes a $50 or more donation to receive a t-shirt or waterbottle.

3. Tread Lightly

Photo courtesy Kevin Schraer on Flickr.

Photo courtesy Kevin Schraer on Flickr.

Tread Lightly strives to balance the needs of the people who enjoy outdoor recreation with the need to keep wild flora and fauna healthy and thriving. They do so by promoting good stewardship and outdoor ethics – much like Leave No Trace. They focus on providing simple, concrete advice, like recreation tips specific to different outdoor activities or showing advertisers how to portray responsible outdoor behavior in their advertisements. They also provide graphics and pamphlets with this advice and train people so that they might educate others. On top of all that, they have an Online Awareness Course that teaches people the basics of minimizing their impact on the outdoors.

Like Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly has different membership levels, starting at $25. This level gets you not one but two newsletter subscriptions (one online and one in print), a sticker, discounts (like 20% off Goal Zero), and the eligibility to apply for a grant, designed to facilitate the organization of clean-ups and trail maintenance. If you want to receive a t-shirt as well, you’ll have to pay $50.

4. The Trust for Public Land

Photo courtesy Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr.

Photo courtesy Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr.

The Trust for Public Land strives to create parks and protect land, making sure there is plenty of (green) public space available for recreation. That includes not only creating parks in and near cities, but also conserving forests and places of historical importance as well as rivers, coasts and watersheds. In the past forty years, the Trust has protected more than three million acres of land.  Their work has a very real impact for the Appalachian Trail, as you can read right here on this very website in a post written in February by the Trust’s Allie Ferguson.

As a member of the Trust for Public Land you receive a subscription to their magazine, plus a wall calendar showcasing their work. You can choose a donation amount for your membership yourself.

Title photo courtesy J. Stephen Conn on Flickr.

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Comments 2

  • David Smith : Dec 5th

    In a nation where most of us suffer from too much stuff, it is nice to see positive alternatives to adding to the pile of things that never made us quite as happy as we had expected. I do have to admit in the spirit of a full disclaimer that a few remaining items on my thru hike gear list on my Christmas list, however.

    Great post.

    • Linde : Dec 7th

      Thank you! And I wholeheartedly agree. I have thru hike gear on my Christmas list as well, but at least we know we’ll be using it!


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