Celebrating Our Partners

Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala 2014//Photos courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Facebook page//Text by Olivia Pridemore, summer events intern

On July 16, we will be hosting our 6th annual Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala.  At first glance, awards ceremonies have an air of formality and prestige.  While that is certainly the case, it is easy to overlook the indirect benefits of such an event.  So what is it that makes an awards Gala truly valuable for a nonprofit organization like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)?

Interestingly most, if not all, nonprofit organizations hold an annual awards Gala.  These types of awards ceremonies are great for revitalizing and invigorating current partners, as well as inspiring new members to join the cause.  For the ATC, the Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala is a time to reflect on all that we have achieved.  With more than 2190 miles, preserving the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is by no means an easy task.  Without the hard work of the ATC and our numerous partners, future generations would not be able to experience the natural, scenic beauty of the trail as we do today.  It is important to take a step back and recognize the progress we have made.

Due to the persistence of its champions, more than 99 percent of the A.T. is protected by right- of- ways, easements, state parks, and various other means of private ownership.  However, much has yet to be done.  Now that most of the corridor is protected, our focus can shift to maintaining viewsheds, curbing the impact of invasive species, and mitigating development proposals that threaten the quality of the hiking experience.  The Gala helps boost moral by offering encouragement and recognition of all we have accomplished by showcasing the fruits of our labor.  But it also reminds us to keep pushing forward.  For those who aren’t familiar with the ATC, the Gala offers enlightenment to the challenges involved with preserving and maintaining the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Leader’s in Conservation Awards Gala is also one of our biggest fundraising opportunities.

In addition to the fundraising aspect of the event, the Gala allows us to increase our presence in D.C.  Out of the 14 Trail states, 27 congressional districts are represented.  All of the Representatives of the aforementioned districts, as well as 28 Senators, are invited to attend the annual Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala.  The political opportunities associated with the Gala are absolutely invaluable.  The ATC’s connections within the federal government strengthen our ability to effectively preserve the Trail.  Together with our partners in the Department of the Interior, Congressional staff, and many other key individuals and organizations, the ATC uses its political front to lobby for land protection and obtain funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The Gala plays a large role in maintaining these political connections, as well as displaying our appreciation for continued support in preserving the Trail as a haven for all to enjoy.  Moreover, we strive to make the Gala a balanced, bipartisan event by honoring individuals from both political parties.  The main focus of the Gala is, in fact, the Trail.  By taking a fair and equalized approach to the Gala, we hope to create an environment in which we can foster friendly relations between all parties.  Therefore, when moving forward in the future, we can all work together for a common goal.  With bipartisan aid, we will be one step closer to fulfilling our mission:  to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.

This year’s Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala is sure to be a success.  We are excited for the opportunity to celebrate our achievements, recognize those who have helped us along the way, and look forward to the future.  This year we will be honoring one of our corporate sponsors (REI), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) for their outstanding contributions to preserving and maintaining the Appalachian Trail.

Want to learn more about the Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala or purchase tickets?  Visit here

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Raising the next generation of Trail stewards

TTEC participants during a 2013 summer training session//Photo by Bob Ryder//Text by Kathryn Herndon, education and outreach coordinator

It’s estimated that children today spend about half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago, instead devoting an average of 5 to 7 hours a day staring at a TV, computer, or other screens. These statistics raise an interesting (and scary!) question: Will the next generation care enough about the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) to protect their national treasure?

Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum famously said:

In the end we will conserve only what we love.

We will love only what we understand.

We will understand only what we are taught.

For the children of today to become tomorrow’s hikers, trail maintainers, stewards and guardians of the A.T., someone has to introduce them to the Trail. And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to accomplish through our Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program, which is a unique professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers who want to connect their students with the natural environment and their community. What’s neat about this program is that it uses the A.T. as a living classroom—resulting in a memorable curriculum that students will remember for the rest of their lives.

So—how does this work, exactly? Through a cumulative workshop series led by national experts in Place Based Service Learning, each teacher will create an experiential learning curriculum based on the state or Common Core standards of learning for their discipline. Each hands-on curriculum integrates the study of A.T. resources in the local community, and is supported by strong teacher and student networks from Georgia to Maine. To see examples of what TTEC teachers are doing, visit the TTEC blog or browse the database of TTEC curricula.

If you know a teacher who loves the outdoors, we’re currently looking for a few outstanding educators in the 14 Trail states for this year’s TTEC program. Download the application here, and keep in mind that the deadline to apply is March 15.

From urban to rural, elementary to high school, and math and science to English, history, art, and physical education, teachers of all stripes are discovering the power of the Trail to engage and educate their students and invigorate their teaching practice. Please help connect students and communities with the A.T. by sharing this opportunity with a teacher!

TTEC is a program of the ATC in partnership with the National Park Service. To learn more, watch this video to find out what teachers are saying about the TTEC workshop series.