How You Can Help Protect the Appalachian Trail

In a recent AMA on Reddit, Appalachian Trail Conservancy executive director/CEO Ron Tipton revealed some concerns the ATC is facing in light of the recent presidential election:

“At this point, so soon after the election, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what a Trump administration will mean for the A.T. Based on comments made during the presidential campaign, we are concerned about how much financial support we will continue to receive from the National Park Service. NPS funding currently pays for more than $2 million in important A.T. projects. In addition, president-elect Trump’s position on expanding traditional domestic energy supplies could very well mean more proposals that would degrade the A.T. experience. For example, right now we are seriously concerned about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Central Virginia, which would adversely impact A.T. vistas. It is critical that any administration considers how any project affects the A.T. landscape. We always attempt work with both parties on a bipartisan basis on any issue related to the Appalachian Trail.”

You might be asking yourself right now, “How can I help? What can I do to protect the Appalachian Trail?”

Below is a list of things you can do, both big and small, in the effort to keep the Appalachian Trail experience a positive experience.

  1. Donate to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The ATC has already expressed concerns about their future funding – let’s show them how much we appreciate the work they do by giving back. Options include becoming an ATC member, setting up a monthly subscription donation, and giving a one-time donation in honor of a loved one. You can also support the ATC by shopping for AT swag at their store.
  2. You can support the ATC by donating your time as a volunteer. If you live in a state near the Appalachian Trail, join your local trail club or crew. You will help with the upkeep of the trail by building shelters, privies, and other structures, and by keeping the AT footpath clear and passable for hikers. If you don’t live in a state close to the Appalachian Trail, you can still volunteer by participating in education and outreach programs.
  3. Charity organizations like HIKE for Mental Health and Warrior Expeditions show the kind of positive impact hiking the Appalachian Trail can have on people. Demonstrating how conservation will directly benefit U.S. citizens is vital when advocating for the protection of our trails, parks, and wildlands. You can help by donating, sponsoring hikes, and registering your own thru hike.
  4. Donate to the National Park Service. The NPS accepts donations towards specific national parks. The AT passes through Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and your donation would be put towards the maintenance of not just the trail in those areas, but the entire park. You can also donate to NPS’s Congressionally chartered national philanthropic partner, the National Park Foundation.
  5. Show your support for the Wilderness Society. This organization works toward protecting wildlands in the United States, including among them the Southern Appalachians. You can get involved by donating, joining as a member, and participating in their advocacy campaigns. (Fun fact – famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams was a generous contributor to the Wilderness Society.)
  6. Shop at small businesses. Consider purchasing your gear through smaller outfitters and gear companies. Entrepreneurship and small business prosperity is vital for job growth, and the state of the economy is a major player when it comes to determining federal funding projects and environmental policies.
  7. Call your Senator and Representative and express to them your support for the Appalachian Trail and the National Park Service, and your concerns towards environmentally dangerous policies. It is their job to accurately represent their constituents in Congress. Make sure to educate yourself thoroughly on these issues beforehand, so you can come to an informed decision. Your voice will have a bigger impact if you are able to clearly and concisely explain your views when you are asked, “What do you like/not like about legislation XYZ?”
  8. Sign a petition. The White House has a petition website set up, and if any petition reaches more than 100,000 signatures, the White House is required to respond to it in no more than 60 days. Again, please make sure to educate yourself on the issues beforehand.
  9. Vote. One Presidential election does not a country make, and the Midterm elections are in just two years. When you research the candidates for your state’s Senator, Representative, or Governor seats, pay close attention to their environmental policies. If they don’t list any on their websites, ask them about it. Hold your politicians accountable.
  10. Go on a hike. Take your friends and family. Invite your local Representative. Extend an invitation to someone who has never been on a hike before. Opt outside. Take photos and post them on Instagram. Blog about your hiking experience. Share to the whole world all the goodness our parks and trails have to offer.

Lastly, a request for all hikers. Likely, many of you are quite upset by the results of the presidential election, and many of you fear for your health, your safety, and even your lives. I understand the temptation to want to escape by going on a long hike. I understand why many hikers I meet refuse to discuss the current political environment, saying that they came out on the trail “to get away from all that.”

My request to you is this: Stay present. Stay focused. Stay informed.  Just because you are out in the mountains does not mean that society doesn’t matter, does not mean that you can’t be pioneers towards a better world. You are some of the few people who have seen the beauty this country has to offer. Fight for it. Protect it.

Because, in the end, this is all our home.

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