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Natural Awakenings National

Mountain Shout: Appalachian Trail America’s Largest Living Laboratory

The famed Appalachian Trail that stretches 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine may become the national equivalent of “the canary in the coal mine…a barometer for environmental and human health conditions,” says Gregory Miller of the American Hiking Society. His is one of several organizations collaborating with The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service to monitor trail health. They’ll tap into a network of thousands of volunteer professional and “citizen” scientists alert to signs of environmental stability or degradation. It could even serve as an early warning system for human inhabitants along the eastern seaboard.

Proponents like David Startzell of the West Virginia-based Appalachian Trail Conservancy hope the project will help spur changes in public policy and personal behavior. He says, “Part of our hope is that as people become more aware of trends affecting those lands, they’ll be motivated to take action.”

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