by Anne Baker, ATC Landscape Partnership Manager

Moving Forward: LWCF and a Thriving Appalachian Landscape

April 11, 2018

People share the desire to move freely.

Whether we are experiencing a day-to-day annoyance of a traffic jam or a larger problem in life that leaves us stumbling and unable to reach our goals, at one time or another, we all know what it means to feel stuck.

Perhaps that is one reason why the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) resonates so strongly with people. In an increasingly busy world, time on this 2,191-mile-long footpath helps us move forward — physically and mentally. The Trail is somewhere we can go when we wish to fully tap into our desire to roam.

As one of our country’s federally designated National Scenic Trails, the A.T. boasts incredible scenery and a multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities for not only hikers, but anyone who values time in nature. The lands and waters surrounding the A.T. offer unspoiled places for hunting, fishing, biking and paddling. Because the Trail traverses 14 states from Georgia to Maine, passing through 168 towns and communities along the way, it is a testament to what accessible outdoor recreation can be.

The A.T. is a Trail that more than 3 million annual visitors are proud of — and it is a landscape that everyone can rally behind to protect.

An extraordinary aspect of the A.T. is that humans are not the only ones who depend upon the connectivity it brings to the East Coast. The Trail has an important role in maintaining wildlife migration patterns. Just ask “Rosalie,” a medium-sized hawk weighing less than a pound. She flies parallel to the A.T. along the Appalachian Mountain Range, makes a pit stop in Texas, then continues south through Mexico to spend the winter in Peru. If Rosalie had a passport, it would rival a seasoned traveler; she visits nine countries in South America alone. When it is time to return north, she flies back to her home in the Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge, where she builds her nest alongside the A.T.

Rosalie the Hawk nests each year on Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge, an important migratory bird ecosystem that is protected by the A.T. corridor. Photo courtesy of Zach Bordner.

Hawks are not the only migratory bird species that benefits from the A.T. landscape. Others include the Golden-winged warbler, which is rapidly declining across the Appalachian Mountains and is a species of concern in Virginia, and Bicknell’s thrush, found in subalpine forests along the A.T. in states like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Bog turtles, too — a species federally listed as threatened — are found scattered along the Appalachian Mountains, primarily in New York and Pennsylvania as well as North Carolina and parts of northeastern Georgia. Because of the size and scope of the A.T., its corridor is likely home to more rare, threatened and endangered animal and plant species than any other National Park Service Unit. What if those species were permanently guaranteed a space to thrive?

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a bipartisan effort that uses revenues from offshore oil and gas to support the protection of federal lands and waters, ensures the Trail has a sustainable future. This future is important to people who visit the A.T. for recreational reasons as well as the species that make the Trail a priceless ecological resource.

Without LWCF, the A.T. landscape could look very different. We do not want to imagine an Appalachian Mountain Range that no longer supports a healthy and free way of playing, living and thriving. I support the reauthorization of LWCF, and I thank you for your assistance in making sure this important fund continues.