The Power of Place: speaking up for the beauty of the outdoors

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I took the MBTA’s Blue line out to Wonderland Station to meet my friend and long time AMC supporter Scott Livingston.  Scott drove us up to Concord NH last week to attend the premier of Jerry Monkman’s new documentary called The Power of Place.

The Lincoln Cinema on Main Street in Concord was a buzz with excitement to see Jerry’s new film.  There were people who made a long drive like Scott and me and others who made the drive from nearby.  In the mix of movie goers were the stars of the show.  Folks who had been interviewed for the movie and gave poignant accounts on Northern Pass’ negative impact on NH.

One of the most striking elements of the movie is the breathtaking beauty of New Hampshire.  Jerry and his team did an outstanding job – over nearly 2 years of work – capturing New Hampshire’s streams, hillsides, pastures and mountain tops. There were spots where Jerry and crew set up a camera for days to get a sense of the beauty of a hiking trail – from the wind swept grasses blowing in the morning to an amazing blanket of tiny dots in a star lighted sky.

The interviews included many home owners and business owners who would be impacted by the proposed Northern Pass transmission lines.  There was a young family whose home would only be yards away from the proposed lines.  A small business owner in Coos County and a home owner both told of their personal fight against the project and how they would never sell their property to the proponent of this project.

With view impact from nearly 93,000 pristine acres, the Northern Pass project would have devastating effects on NH’s beauty and the NH outdoor economy.  The growing outdoor economy in NH – from down hill skiing at Loon and Cannon Mountain to the hundreds of thousands of hikers in the White Mountains National Forest; from cross country skiing at Great Glenn or at the Mount Washington Hotel to sailing and paddling in Lake Winnipesaukee –  the outdoor economy is one of NH’s most important economic engines and a source of livelihoods for thousands of NH residents.

The Power of Place brings together the iconic views of New Hampshire, the incredible strength and commitment of NH citizens and reminds us of the sense of urgency in this fight against the Northern Pass project.  As the citizens of New Hampshire and New England fought to establish the White Mountain National Forest through the Weeks Act of 1911, it is now our time to protect this great land for generations to come.  For more on Jerry Monkman’s movie, please visit  http://ecophotography.com/power/

Advancing Maine Woods

With over 66,000 acres, Maine Woods is an exceptional outdoor recreational experience. AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative provided our community – donors, staff, volunteers, stewards, partners and others – with an incredible once-in-a-lifetime landscape scale conservation opportunity. A cohesive strategy helps to advance and sustain this beautiful wilderness while wisely leveraging every dollar of the $52,000,000 AMC has invested thus far.

Today Maine Woods has approximately 100 miles of some of the best wilderness trails. From back country escapes to wide logging roads – there are a variety of levels and conditions to meet the diverse needs of hikers, bikers, and cross country skiers. AMC’s current lodges – Little Lyford Pond Camp and Gorman Chairback Lodge – saw significant new investment, construction and renovation projects during the past few years. AMC’s Maine staff works hard to provide our guests with comfortable accommodations, wilderness programming, delicious meals and AMC “high-mountain hospitality”.

As the great word on AMC’s Maine Woods spreads – reported by guests, blogs, television shows, magazines and newspapers – so grows Maine Woods occupancy. This year, over 6,000 guests will experience the excitement and fun of this stunningly beautiful wilderness.

In addition to being an unparalleled outdoor escape, Maine Woods also contributes greatly to the outdoor economy. Restaurants, shops, local inns and sporting gear outfitters have all benefited from the spending by thousands of AMC Maine Woods visitors. It has been reported that Maine Woods guests spend approximately $120 on average in the local community. As more and more guests experience Maine Woods, the outdoor economy multiplier will increase as AMC adds more trails and new facilities to accommodate the demand. AMC’s investment and strategy in the Maine Woods also includes a considerable sustainable forestry operation.

A portion of the AMC acreage is available for sustainable timber harvesting. This forestry operation continues the rich tradition of Maine forestry while bringing in important revenue to support the larger Maine Woods land management operation. We will also continue to work on our recreational trails infrastructure in the 100 mile wilderness. The Maine Woods trails infrastructure will provide exciting trails and outdoor experiences – appealing to broad group of outdoor enthusiasts. AMC trails will provide connections to regional trails infrastructure, fostering outstanding outdoor adventures.

We will continue to collaborate with our great partners – including the Town of Greenville, Piscataquis County, the State of Maine and others to continue to position Maine as an outstanding leader in outdoor recreation. Our staff and volunteers are working with government and partner organizations to develop new branding and promotional strategies to continue to build the region’s brand identity and brand leadership in the outdoors.

Maine Woods has succeeded thanks to a robust outdoor recreational plan and conservation leadership strategy. Thanks to the continued support of incredibly generous stewards, partners and supporters, Maine Woods will continue to thrive and have a positive impact on Maine’s outdoor economy.

Maine Woods supports a robust Outdoor Economy

Maine Woods supports a robust Outdoor Economy

Walk Off the War – for Our Veterans

 

2014 Walk off the War: Noble View Outdoor Center hosting our Veterans.

2014 Walk off the War: Noble View Outdoor Center hosting our Veterans.

To help him through the horrific experiences he endured during World War II, Earl Shaffer told friends that he was going to “walk off the war”. In 1948 Shaffer hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. The first person credited for through-hiking the trail from Georgia to Maine.

In 2012, Sean Gobin returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I heard Sean speak in DC this Spring, he said “I thought I was going to be a statistic – one of the 20% of Veterans who don’t make it.” Sean thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and he said he realized the therapeutic affects of the more than 2,100 miles. Sean was immersed in nature and tackling the elements along the way. Ultimately he realized this incredible achievement through hard work, persistence and supportive people he met along the way.

Sean founded Walk of the War to give returning Veterans the opportunity for the same experience. With terrific partners, Walk off the War now runs thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

AMC had the honor to host participants in the Walk off the War program at our Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, Massachusetts. Nestled in Western Massachusetts – near the Berkshires – Noble View is an oasis, minutes away from urban areas and larger population centers. This nature escape offers a rich trails system and beautiful facilities.

It was an honor to meet some of the thru-hikers. They represented different branches of the Armed Services. They spoke about their trek – now more than two thirds complete – and the days ahead hiking toward the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine. One of the Veterans said the hike had restored his faith in humanity – and the goodness of people.

We are indebted to our Veterans for their service. We need to continue to do our part close to home to get active outdoors; preserve these beautiful places for generations to come; and help more Veterans get onto the trail to experience the wonders of the natural world and the thanks of their grateful fellow citizens.

Cleaner Air and tackling climate change. EPA’s 111D

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule to the Clean Air Act.  111D will – among other things – help to move to reduce and regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants.  This rule will help to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.  This is one of several moves that hope to achieve our nation’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.

111D will require states to work with the EPA to develop standards of performance.  The system that has been designed under 111D is being called the “best system for reduction in emissions” (BSRE).  States will be given upwards of 15 years to implement their systems – determined by what they can reasonably achieve.  Closing down some of our nation’s worst coal-fired plants; increasing the move to cleaner fossil fuels like natural gas; and developing a broader array of alternative energy sources, are all part of BSRE.

As we work to lower GHG emissions and advance alternative energy sources, we must work more collaboratively. Not only by working more collaboratively between states but also between nations – we need to think about a more global citizen grass roots green effort. AMC would like to be conservation’s outdoor recreational voice.  We are working to get more people active in the outdoors but also encouraging those who are active to be good conservation stewards.

While this proposed rule is an important and welcome change, it also focuses our individual responsibility to do more.  At AMC, we’ve recently launched a conservation campaign.  Our message is simple: the cleanest energy is the energy not used.  As outdoor citizens, we ask what can we do to lower our own carbon footprint.  From recycling and reuse to car sharing and water conservation – there are too many ways to have our own personal positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions.  Together we can work on all fronts to reduce GHG and make the planet a better place for future generations to enjoy and prosper.

 

 

Summer’s here!

It was a real treat to be at Pinkham Notch yesterday.  Nestled in the White Mountain National Forest, Pinkham is the launch point for thousands of hikers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts.  Our team had spent the last several months preparing for these Summer visitors, hikers and guests.  

As a young person, I was so fortunate to spend my summers in New Hampshire.  I remember the last day of school and thinking of the gear that I needed to ready for camp.  Whether as a camper or as a member of the staff, these are some of my fondest memories.  

We’d make the trek up from Boston and once we hit the dirt road we knew camp was close by.  The smells of woods would waft into the car as we’d turn each bend in the road and get closer to camp.  This was such a wonderful place.  Surrounded by woods, lakes, stream and rivers.  So much potential for fun each day.  It was a great place to learn to swim, to meet new friends and to create a daily adventure.

At AMC we’re very fortunate to help individuals and families create their own summer adventures.  From Three Mile Island and Echo Lake Camp to Cardigan Lodge and the Huts, there are more than 70 facilities that we offer during the summer.  These summer experiences are often generational.  I sat next to a man in his late 80’s at Echo Lake Camp.  He was a World War II Veteran and the first of three generations to attend the camp.  What a rich tradition of sharing the outdoors with family and friends.

Tent camping in back country facilities is one of the most wild experiences we offer.  Whether it be tents or back country shelters, there’s a sense of solitude and oneness with nature in these remote areas.  Back country sites in Maine and NH or in the Berkshires and the Delaware Water Gap, offer a summer experience that wont be forgotten.

We’ve also been working on a close to home recreational infrastructure.  These close to home opportunities allow millions of nearby residents a chance to have a summer day trip in the outdoors.  The Bay Circuit Trail offers nearly 230 miles of trails cutting through 57 communities; the Connecticut River offers paddling trips up and down Western New England; and local state forests and parks (managed by groups like the Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation) have an abundance of places to visit and program offerings.  

So don’t forget to plan your summer adventures and get outdoors.  For more information, please visit our lodging at outdoors.org

 

Tapping smartphone apps to conserve

4.4 Billion app users as engaged conservation stewards

4.4 Billion app users as engaged conservation stewards

There seem to be apps for everything now.  Smartphone apps to make lives easier, more efficient, and more connected – all delivered at dizzying speeds.  From health and fitness to mapping the best travel routes, from organizing files on the cloud to apps for photo editing, from car sharing to food ordering – there are thousands of apps to choose from.   We are fortunate that there are also many apps – developed and in development – for worthy causes and to advance philanthropy.

While we continue to want to get people outdoors and unplugged from technology, I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to galvanize app users as conservation stewards.  According to Portio Research, nearly 1.2 billion people used smartphone apps in 2012.  By 2017 that number is predicted to jump to 4.4 billion.  That’s an enormous increase in people worldwide who will use apps.

Imagine if that group of app users – 4.4 billion people – uses this technology to lower their carbon footprint.  This would have massive implications for energy conservation.  From apps to turn down their home and office thermostats to apps that better connect people with walking trails or public transportation.  There are a long list of great apps to help us advance a new world of conservation stewardship.

The Alliance to Save Energy outlined their top energy efficiency apps in 2013: http://www.ase.org/resources/top-10-energy-efficiency-smartphone-apps  This list includes Kill-Ur-Watts to keep track of your energy use and develop a strategy to reduce your energy consumption.  There are also water saving apps like the National Ground Water Association’s water usage calculator.   The gamification of conservation apps is also well represented with many games and challenges to keep your family engaged in a fun and competitive spirit.

There is a great teaching and learning moment upon us.  By embracing technology to stimulate personal conservation, responsibility and awareness, we can have immediate impact.  Conservation of energy, water and other scarce resources needs to be a part of each individual’s outdoor citizenship.  Conservation is the best green energy – the fuel that’s unused.  A conservation minded, tech savvy world puts significantly lowering our carbon footprint within the reach of everyone.

 

Earth Day April 22, 2014: a move to Green Cities

 

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Earth Day is April 22nd.  We’ve been fortunate since 1990 to have millions of people celebrating Earth Day and bringing attention to the need for conservation practices.  This year, Earth Day is embracing the theme of Green Cities.  There are massive environmental implications if we don’t move quickly to green our cities.  By 2050, over 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Cities are our best hope to tackle some of the world’s most serious problems.  

Cities are positioned to lead.  Never before has so much been riding on the success of cities.  People are now heading to cities for diversity, amenities, social connections, business opportunities, cultural attractions and convenience.  Cities are also naturally greener.  Most notably because urban inhabitants have a lower carbon footprint.  Cities like New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Madrid have millions of inhabitants who use public transportation every day – or better yet, they walk or ride a bike.

Cities have an opportunity to continue the trend to move away from a highway orientation of the 1950’s to an outdoor-centric orientation to support human powered recreation.  Cities of the 21st Century must move to connect their citizens with the green spaces – parks, hiking trails, bike paths, and river ways.  Smart cities like Bogota and Buenos Aires have done assessments on what they’re offering in terms of green infrastructure and what gaps need to be filled to complete their “green city” system.

Conservation practices are key to living in better symbiosis with the planet.  Reducing our extreme use of the natural environment by recycling, capturing ground water run off, increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings, teaching conservation stewardship, embracing green design, adopting new energy technologies and creating vibrant connections to outdoor recreation are all part of a winning formula for green cities.