Protecting the WMNF

The White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) covers 800,000 acres in New Hampshire and Maine and provides year-round recreation for approximately 6 million visitors annually. With 1,200 miles of hiking trails, 400 miles of snowmobile trails, 23 campgrounds, 4 alpine ski areas and 6 ski touring areas there is plenty to do. 

Looking south from the summit of Mt. Willard through Crawford Notch

Looking south from the summit of Mt. Willard through Crawford Notch

With all of this fun comes the challenge of maintaining the natural beauty that draws so many to experience the WMNF. So, who takes care of these places that we all enjoy? In addition to the National Forest Service there are many other groups and volunteers that continually help to maintain the trails. 

AMC Madison Spring Hut

AMC Madison Spring Hut

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is comprised of more than 100,000 members, with 16,000 volunteers and over 450 full time and seasonal staff. In the White Mountains, the AMC maintains 285 miles of trails and operate 11 campsites which host over 12,000 overnight visitors annually. To successfully maintain the trail system takes a lot of work, over 18,000 hours of labor each year. 11,000 of these are attributed to more than 450 members who volunteer their time, the remaining 7,000 hours are for heavy trail reconstruction which is done by a professional trail crew.

The Randolph Mountain Club located on the north slope of the Presidential Range maintain a comprehensive network of trails totaling 102 miles. Through trail crews and volunteers, they spend more than 3,500 hours working in the forest. The RMC operates 2 cabins and 2 additional shelters where caretakers are trained in the protection of the alpine environment.

RMC Gray Knob Cabin

RMC Gray Knob Cabin

These are just a few examples, there are many others who through foundations, partnerships and individual acts help to take care of these public lands.

Most people in the outdoor community are familiar with Leave No Trace (LNT), however to assume the practice simply implies to pick up after yourself would be incorrect, LNT focuses also on reducing your impact on the trails and sensitive vegetation.

Carl Hertz, Director of the RMC had this to say about the fragile alpine zone, “Our caretakers often take a relaxed and educational approach to questions raised about alpine vegetation.” His belief is that “a positive experience is memorable and well received compared to lectures on rules and regulations”. This is true, often times hikers will take a quick glance - if even acknowledging at all - any posting, whether warning of thin ice on a pond or sensitive alpine vegetation. As Carl points out “these plants are from the last ice age, native to Northern Canada and Scandinavia, some grow only in the White Mountains and one other place on earth”. To protect these species is paramount. 

Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica)

Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

The greatest part of enjoying nature is nature itself, and being mindful of the impact we all have simply by being present goes a long way to help protect the places we all love. Just setting foot on a trail leaves an impact, in fact, the trails themselves are an impact on the land; however, to mitigate the damage they are a necessity. Damage occurs when people venture off trail, or skirt the side of the trail to avoid an obstacle. As trails get worn they are more susceptible to erosion, as rain water collects it finds its way to the lowest point, the path of least resistance is often the hiking trail. This compounds the issue and eventually the trail is left lower than the surroundings which leads to frequent washouts. 

Heavy rain leaves a trail flooded

Heavy rain leaves a trail flooded

Groups that maintain trails use a number of preventative measures to combat erosion, including steps, logs, rocks, and drainage ditches. All of these are done for the improvement of the trail. Avoiding obstacles leads to increased damage. 

Boards help to keep foot traffic off vegitation

Boards help to keep foot traffic off vegitation

Leaving behind trash is always unacceptable, and there is nothing more unsightly than a trail littered with trash. There are the big items like glass bottles that take 1 MILLION years to decompose, Aluminum Cans which take up to 200 years, plastic bags – 20 years. Even the small things have an impact, cigarettes can take 5 years to decompose. Things as seemingly harmless as an apple core can take 2 months, orange and banana peels take 2-5 weeks. It is safe to say, if you carried it in, you should carry it out!

Pristine Star Lake located high in the Presidential Range between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams

Pristine Star Lake located high in the Presidential Range between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams

In conclusion, its best to be mindful and realizing that you are in a place made naturally, one can surmise that it is best to leave it how you found it and enjoy the unique features you can only find by venturing into the mountains.

Inevitably there will be the need for maintenance, reconstruction, and trash removal. If you are feeling inspired, look up a local volunteer organization and offer your help, they and the rest of us who use the trails will appreciate it!


Sources:

White Mountain National Forest Fact Sheet https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5262234.pdf

Appalachian Mountain Club Fact Sheet http://www.outdoors.org/pdf/upload/AMC-Fact-Sheet.pdf

A. Norkin AMC Director of Trails 8/18/17

Bob Drescher RMC Trails Co-Chair 8/19/17

U.S. National Park Service: Monte Marine Lab https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/coastal/trash/documents/marine_debris.pdf

Our National Parks

Our National Parks are home to some of the most magnificent scenery in the country, from sprawling landscapes to dominate mountain peaks, there is a park for everyone. 

Looking out over Acadia National Park

Looking out over Acadia National Park

Last year was the National Park Centennial anniversary and visitation numbers were higher across the board, overall there were over 330 million visitors in 2016, up more than 7% from 2015. It is exciting news that people are getting out and enjoying the parks, after all, they are public places that are meant for public use and enjoyment. But, as the number of visitors increase it can present many issues in terms of environmental impact. Bottle-neck traffic jams and increased pollution from vehicle exhaust, litter and waste left behind from irresponsible travelers and overflow/off-road parking damaging natural vegetation.

Although the boom is great for local business it also puts a strain on the infrastructure that supports those businesses. Public transportation, waste removal, fresh water supply, waste water treatment, when these systems get strained they lose efficiency and can have a spiraling effect on both environmental impact and public safety.  

These are all things park services and local government need to take into consideration for future planning. As visitation increases the systems that support the parks need to be monitored and upgraded in conjunction. 

Crowd gathered for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

Crowd gathered for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

This July I visited Acadia National Park as I have for the past several years, there has been a steady but noticeable increase in visitation over the past few years. 2016, the Centennial, was expectedly busy as the Park Service had been promoting the 100th Anniversary. I was surprised that 2017 seemed drastically more busy than the previous year. 

Most of the major attractions of the park are well maintained, there are procedures in place to manage and impede the damage caused by tourists, trails have barriers in place to protect from erosion and overuse. Parking is designated to specific lots and off street parking is prohibited in most cases. But despite best efforts there is inevitably damage that does occur. There are routine trail closures to allow revegetation efforts to take hold, more permeant structure are put in place to prevent trail erosion, and ultimately enforcement has increased throughout the park by Park Rangers. 

Walkway along delicate vegetation to prevent erosion from excess foot traffic

Walkway along delicate vegetation to prevent erosion from excess foot traffic

Stone staircase constructed to prevent errosion

Stone staircase constructed to prevent errosion

We need to remember that the beauty of these parks is their natural landscape, and simply by being there we are having an impact on that landscape. They are spectacular places to visit and have inspired people from all walks of life, when visiting just be mindful of the impact you have. 

A New Beginning

Welcome to the first in a series of post. This is the introduction of Northeast Conservation.

A new company dedicated to promoting responsible and sustainable use of public and natural resources.  Nearly a decade in the Energy Efficiency industry and a lifelong love of the outdoors have transpired to create a strong desire to promote change and to preserve our natural landscapes.  

Through public outreach we bring attention to a number of causes and provide researched opinion on how to responsibly share our planet's resources. 

Check back often for information on important causes and ways you can help to preserve our future.