Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ATC awards $25,000 in grants towards AT projects

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s specialty license-plate program in North Carolina is distributing $25,000 in 2010 grants to nine organizations for their work on projects to benefit the Appalachian Trail.

Projects to enhance the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) experience this year include treadway improvement; maintenance of the popular Overmountain Shelter, commonly called “the big red barn”; and the inventory and control of exotic-invasive plant species along several miles of the footpath.

The grants are also supporting newer programs of the Conservancy and its partner organizations for work in Trailside communities and schools. The Nantahala Hiking Club and Franklin Main Street program received support for their involvement related to Franklin’s Appalachian Trail Community designation, the town’s April Fools Hiker Bash, and other A.T.-focused community events.

Three grants related to youth and schools were also awarded. The Carolina Mountain Club received assistance for an effort to increase youth engagement in the club. Summit Charter School of Cashiers, N.C., received funds to enhance and interpret a trail on school grounds that serves as an outdoor classroom. Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Blue Ridge Hiking Company will provide assistance to eight schools implementing curricula related to the Conservancy’s Trail to Every Classroom program. That program uses the A.T. as a learning tool for placed-based education and includes a component of service learning for teachers, all intended to increase awareness of the Trail and encourage youth to become stewards of it.

Two groups received funding to study birds along the A.T. The Southern Appalachian Raptor Research will initiate a bird education program and monitor the Northern Saw-whet owl population, habitat, and breeding at Big Bald, near Wolf Laurel, N.C. Mountains-to-Sea Ecological will provide a baseline survey of rare and common breeding birds at a number of high-elevation sites along the Trail in the state. Defining bird populations along the Appalachian Trail as part of ATC’s citizen-scientist-based environmental-monitoring program will help determine what species are at risk, the factors that influence bird species' distribution and population numbers, how severely population numbers are changing, and how the birds will fare in the face of climate change or other stressors. With that information, land managers and policymakers will be better able to protect the birds’ habitat to ensure their continued survival.

Vehicle owners who support the Conservancy’s work through their Appalachian Trail license-plate purchases make the grant program and associated projects possible. Please click here for more information.

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, hiking gear store, and more.

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