Presidents Letter

Presidents Letter
IT IS APPROPRIATE THAT this first letter I write to you as president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is in an issue of A.T. Journeys that celebrates the night sky and guiding stars of our universe.

I have spent the past 35 years of my life volunteering and working, in multiple capacities, to protect and support the Appalachian Trail and the organizations responsible for its care. I have earned my stripes, so to speak, learning and working at the club level and eventually taking on leadership roles with the ATC. That focus — to work for this iconic and powerful place we call the A.T. — has been a beacon and guiding star for most of my adult life. Both the personal and the professional me has matured within and benefited from the experiences I’ve had on and around the Trail. And, it is with gratitude and humility that I take on this new role for the ATC and the A.T.

Milky Way from the A.T. Roan, Highlands – By Daniel Burleson
Milky Way from the A.T. Roan
Highlands – By Daniel Burleson
My focus will be threefold: First, I look to bring stability and support to our incredible staff. Ushering in sudden change can be disruptive and disconcerting. I will look to provide a structure in which staff are empowered to perform at their best and ensure they have the resources and tools necessary to do their work.

Second, I am focused on providing transparent and thorough communication, both internally and externally. This complex Trail is no stranger to disagreements, but by working through challenges, a unified vision has been and will continue to be achieved. Open communication does not mean an end to divergent views. However, I know we are all at the table working toward the singular goal of what is best for the Appalachian Trail.

My final area of focus will be looking forward to all the work we have yet to do. There are ongoing battles to maintain the integrity of the A.T. viewshed and environments we refer to as the Wild East. Poorly planned energy infrastructure projects, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed to run from northwestern to southern Virginia, threaten to carve long-lasting scars into the A.T. landscape rather than work to find more sustainable locations. Despite some political victories, invaluable conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund continue to struggle to find funding. A series of misguided policy decisions threaten the effectiveness of bedrock legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. On the positive side, with the Restore Our Parks Act working its way through Congress, the Trail may finally receive much-needed funding to address the growing number of deferred maintenance projects. However, we need to keep up our pressure to make this a reality.

I also am firmly committed to ensuring that we provide opportunities for the next generation of Trail builders and conservationists. We will continue to make sure the Trail and our organization’s programs are welcoming to individuals from all backgrounds and experiences. Even more importantly, I will work both at the staff and board levels to ensure all voices are actively at the table leading our organization forward.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is uniquely experienced, uniquely positioned, and uniquely capable of managing and protecting the Appalachian Trail. In my new role, I will look to build on our strengths, stabilize our foundation, and ensure that the cooperative management structure remains strong and effective. Together, we will navigate along this remarkable path into a bright future.

Sandra Marra / President & CEO

Staying True Signature