The Drones are Here!
By Bob Proudman and
This summer, drones flying over the A.T. were reported at Mount Moosilauke in NH, the Pochuck Creek in NJ, and McAfee’s Knob in VA. Hikers, land managers, and occasionally the proud drone pilots themselves reported remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights by providing links to YouTube, Facebook, and social media. Scenic videos of flights from A.T. overlooks or open areas show hikers, the footpath, and the pilots themselves.
The age-old dream of human flight has combined with the inexpensive lightweight UAVs, GPS technology, sophisticated software, and radio telemetry to make this relatively new technology widely available. Although there are legitimate scientific and public safety uses for UAVs, this new technology is prone to abuse.
The National Park Service adopted an interim regulation in June, stipulating that all parks will prohibit such use of unmanned aircraft. Yellowstone National Park has successfully prosecuted three people for violating the prohibition along with other regulations, and for impacts to resources resulting from the use of UAVs. Fines, restitution, and court costs ranging from $1,000 to more than $3,000 each were imposed. One individual also received a one-year ban from the park.
For the Appalachian Trail, the NPS stated, “Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.” For more information, see the NPS’ Addendum to the Compendium of Orders on Unmanned Aircraft
Noise pollution, visual impacts, disturbing wildlife, and privacy issues of filming individuals without their consent are among the concerns that make unregulated use of drones inappropriate for the Appalachian Trail.
At the request of ATC Stewardship Council member Cosmo Catalano, Jr.—a volunteer manager of the Massachusetts portion of the A.T.—the Council, in consultation with federal agency partners, is developing policy direction on drones to share for review and comment with the Trail maintaining clubs.
The draft policy highlights the NPS closure and follows longstanding ATC best management practice to provide visitors the opportunity to “interact with the wild, scenic, pastoral, cultural, and natural elements of the Appalachian Trail environment, unfettered and unimpeded by competing sights or sounds of civilization.” (See the A.T. Experience and Non-Hiking Recreational Uses 1997
.) It also states that ATC opposes the use of drones with possible exceptions for Trail-management purposes, such as monitoring, research, search and rescue, or law enforcement. All uses would need prior written permission from the land-managing agency.
The draft policy may be found here
. Please submit any comments to email@example.com.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations
Hikers and Hunting
Because the A.T. is a National Park unit, many hikers are unaware that hunting is permitted along much of the Trail and on adjacent lands. Whether you are working or hiking on the Trail, take the opportunity to educate hikers about local hunting seasons and the precautions they should take
If you encounter hunters, engage them in friendly conversation and let them know that there may be hikers on the Trail who are unfamiliar with hunting and may not be wearing blaze orange. If illegal hunting is taking place, do not be confrontational with violators, but report the information to the appropriate game authorities, the land-managing agency, and your ATC regional office.
Information for hikers and hunters is posted on ATC's website at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/hiking-basics/health-safety#hunting
The fall corridor program field season is in full swing, and we welcome Kevin Berend (left) and Chris Wu (right) to our seasonal staff.
Kevin has spent several summers working as a summit steward with the Adirondack Mountain Club and has a passion for wildlife and ecosystem conservation. He recently spent a season in Colorado studying sage grouse habitat restoration. Kevin will return to SUNY Brockport next fall to pursue his master's degree.
Chris is a 2,000-miler (class of 2012) with a background in marine engineering. After his thru-hike, he volunteered with the Appalachian Mountain Club in Connecticut and learned about trail maintenance and corridor monitoring. Most recently, he spent a season with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, leading a field crew in trail maintenance and construction.
On the boundary with Batona
The corridor field team spent a week with the Batona Hiking Club, maintaining challenging sections near Wind Gap, PA. Batona Corridor Monitor Coordinator Tom Hurd led the charge, alongside his volunteer and scout Marty Otto. The team was able to recover several monuments that have not seen the light of day for well over 10 years!
Hunting season is underway in the states along the A.T., so make sure you are familiar with the hunting activities occurring in your Trail section. Be visible when you are working the boundary by wearing your blaze orange.
Mid-Atlantic Corridor Stewardship Coordinator