Trouble in the Trees: Increasing Use Along the Appalachian Trail

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Michael Fotos
Essay Abstract: 
The wilderness is getting crowded. All along the 2,200 mile-long Appalachian Trail, visitor use is increasing rapidly, and shows no signs of levelling of. With this increase comes an array of social disruptions and ecological stresses that breeds conflict between stakeholders on the trail, and questions about the true purpose of “a footpath through the wilderness.” This essay enumerates some of the key actors and organizations involved in the trail community, and examines the social and ecological problems caused by increasing use along the trail through an in-depth exploration of this issue in the trail’s northern and southernmost states. It also offers a series of recommendations intended to address these problems, as well as a framework for analyzing them.