By J.J. King, Ice Age Trail Hiker and Proud Thousand-Miler
The U.S. House of Representatives took a historic vote on July 22 when it approved the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that will invest in priority repairs at National Park Service (NPS) sites in Wisconsin and across the country. From the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, needed repairs in Wisconsin’s NPS sites total $21.9 million, just part of the multi-billion maintenance backlog threatening park resources and local economies.
• Served the Ice Age Trail for at least 20 years.
• Markedly elevated public awareness of the Trail.
• Secured significant funding.
• Significantly advanced the IATA’s mission in some other way.
While we feel like explorers as we hike the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail, it is important to remember the people whose footsteps we follow. The dedicated and inspiring volunteers of the Ice Age Trail Alliance make the Ice Age Trail the national gem that it is. Each year, we recognize our most esteemed volunteers. One award, the Trail Steward of the Year, recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to trail management and development.
On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the United States Senate voted 73-25 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make a substantial investment in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands.
The passage of this bill will help address priority repairs in our national parks and on other public lands by directing up to $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System and other public land agencies. It will also fully and permanently dedicate $900 million per year already being deposited into the LWCF, our nation’s most important conservation program for land, water, and recreation areas for all Americans.
Mammoth’s Back Preserve was previously unattached to the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to its west. However, this past May, the Alliance acquired two trail easements that will eventually connect the southern extent of the Cross Plains Segment to the existing Preserve.
Outdoor spaces are everyone’s right to enjoy without being subjected to danger, suspicion, and violence. The tragic events in recent weeks, resulting in the senseless deaths of black Americans, exposes a challenge to our mission that goes well beyond the Trail.
Simply, we are appalled.
Note: Updated 5/27/2020
A hike on a favorite segment of Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers mood-boosting fresh air and sunshine and provides a respite from the uncertainty around us. The Ice Age Trail is a perfect place for slowing down, gathering your internal resources, and gaining clarity.
It’s also important, while we are out exploring the Trail, that we remain respectful of the fact COVID-19 is still in our midst. It’s important to help stop the spread of the virus and help flatten the curve with considerate and responsible behavior.
Some days feel like they take FOREVER to get here. This year, Saturday, June 6, National Trails Day, is one of those. We’re marking its arrival by joining together and taking Mammoth Steps on behalf of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
This day will be among the first opportunities for Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers to get back to doing what they love best: creating, supporting, and protecting the Ice Age Trail.
It’s a day to reconnect with the Trail from which they’ve been apart during the last few months.
Imagine…if they photographed the best features of the Ice Age Trail along the way: the expansive views, tread unfurling ahead, and ephemerals peeking up from the forest floor.
Imagine…a snapshot of the Ice Age Trail, in its entirety, as it looks on a single day!
This vision could become a reality with your help.
We have 120 Ice Age Trail segments waiting for you to enjoy, camera in hand and eyes finely-tuned for beauty, as part of our National Trails Day celebration on Saturday, June 6.
This description is of a rather rare insect that resides in central Wisconsin – the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Its existence is so threatened it was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1992.
Its tiny size makes it easy to miss as it flits between grasses and wildflowers, and because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention, it’s disappearance from our Midwest landscape might not seem like such a big deal. Yet, each and every species, like the Karner blue butterfly, plays a valuable ecological role in nature. Each loss destabilizes this fragile balance. As the folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service point out, “experience has proven that many plants and animals have properties which will prove beneficial to humans as sources of food and medicine. With the loss of each species, we lose a potential resource for improving the quality of life for all humanity.”
A growing number of people, it seems, are particularly drawn to places where they might witness evidence of our ability to repair past environmental damage and create a healthier future for the earth. Ice Age Trail (IAT) segments where there are ongoing, large-scale efforts to rebuild ecological diversity are becoming some of the Trail’s most popular hikes.
Try the trail of the Ice Age today,
nature’s glacial destruction display.
Hike the terminal path
of the cold weather wrath
where Wisconsin held fast in the way.
From the Sturgeon Bay calm of its shore
to the Falls of St. Croix and their roar,
it’s history’s trail
through nature’s travail
that would alter forever earth’s lore.
It’s adventure that fits to a “tee”
spirits yearning for splendor to see
— whether done end to end,
or by segment, or bend —
time remembered as all it can be…
…amid features of rock to exalt
in the bluffs and the cliffs by default
now natural beauty
derived from the duty
of becoming a mineral vault.