Accomplishments in 2015
In 2015, the ATC scaled up landscape conservation for the Trail. We hired a director of landscape conservation and hosted the first annual A.T. Landscape Conservation workshop — nearly 70 participants attended, representing large and small conservation organizations, and federal and state agencies.
The ATC, the National Park Service, and its partners are working on important conservation issues across the landscape from Georgia to Maine. We are creating leverage by building a bigger umbrella for our partners to operate under, fostering more collaboration and funding to secure lands and work with communities surrounding the Trail. This network — working under the A.T. Landscape initiative — will be supported by the ATC to expand successful landscape protection in priority areas.
Natural Resource management efforts continued to grow. invasive species management increased by way of many club projects, four visits from the traveling National Park Service Exotic Plant Management Teams, and the A.T. Garlic Mustard Challenge which engaged over 170 volunteers and 19 clubs and partner organizations. Protection of Rare, Threatened and Endangered (RTE) species along the Trail continued to be a priority, with 88 populations visited and monitored by volunteers. Four new restoration projects were initiated and two were continued this past year in order to restore and preserve critical RTE habitats. In addition, we managed 343 acres of grasslands/early successional areas that offer unique recreational value as well as important habitat for significant species such as golden winged warblers, bobolinks, and other bird species of concern.
Conservation staff spent a good deal of time reviewing and engaging with proposed energy infrastructure projects. Our primary concern with natural gas pipelines, expanded transmission lines, and industrial wind development are the habitat fragmentation caused by these large projects, and the potential visual impacts from viewpoints along the Trail. We are tracking 10 pipelines and have submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on four proposed pipelines. In addition, we supported an updated wind energy law in Maine that would afford more protection to scenic resources of the Trail.
The ATC’s advocacy work also included lobbying for Land and Water Conservation Fund projects. Approximately $1.2 million was appropriated in the 2016 federal budget to secure a 163-acre A.T. tract in North Carolina.