The story below is an excerpt from our July/August 2014 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
Thru-hiker Ron Tipton now oversees the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.
Since 1978 Ron Tipton has been in advocacy/management with four national conservation organizations: The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund and National Parks conservation Association. He is past President of Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington.
On the morning of April 9, 1978 I started my 2,100-mile hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia to the very dramatic northern terminus of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail at Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine. Part of my mission was to give the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service a report on high priority areas for land acquisition to address threats from land development directly adjacent to the trail. I completed my end-to-end trek in early September and submitted my ideas for land protection the following month to the two federal agencies.
This unique assignment came to me right after President Jimmy Carter signed new legislation giving the Park Service a clear mandate to buy lands within the Appalachian Trail corridor in order to assure permanent protection of the scenic vistas and the immediate landscape surrounding the Trail. Ninety million dollars was authorized for this purpose, and funds became available almost immediately and on an annual basis.
As it turned out, the Appalachian Trail has been one of the most successful such efforts in the history of our country. Greater than 99 percent of the now-2,180 mile- A.T. is in public ownership, with more than 280,000 acres of trail lands managed by the Park Service, Forest Service and a variety of state agencies. The last major section of the trail corridor to be protected – several miles of the A.T. in southwestern Virginia (the southern end of the Central Virginia section of the trail) from the New River north to Pearisburg – was acquired this year by the Forest Service. This is a fantastic achievement! ...