Appalachian Mountain Club

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1876

In 1876, Edward Pickering, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, convened on MIT’s Boston campus a gathering of 34 men with a shared interest in mountain exploration and the outdoors. Some of the attendees wanted to form a “New England Geographical Society,” but rather than create “one more learned society,” the attendees decided to create “a vigorous, full-blooded, ardent club” that would support actual outdoor adventuring by building paths and huts available for general use. By 1906 the Appalachian Mountain Club had more than a thousand members and managed more than 100 miles of trails and many cabins. Its success inspired John Muir and some professors from the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University to found the Sierra Club in 1892, though that organization soon veered in a different direction as a mass-membership political group, rather than an operating entity.

Today the Appalachian Mountain Club is still focused on enabling the active enjoyment of the outdoors. Its 100,000 members, 16,000 volunteers, and many loyal donors maintain over 1,800 miles of forest trails plus hundreds of shelters, working through 12 local chapters stretching along the East Coast. In 2003 the club took another bold step into direct conservation by raising private money to buy and permanently protect a 37,000-acre tract bordering the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Six years later the organization bought an adjacent 29,500-acre block, thus creating a large continuous corridor of conservation lands stretching north to Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin (described in a 1930 entry). These major purchases were inspired by concern over the decline of the timber industry in Maine, which had traditionally allowed generous public use of its lands while keeping them in a wild state.

The AMC launched its “Maine Woods Initiative” to demonstrate creative ways to combine four productive uses of wild lands: recreation, conservation, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships. On their purchased lands, ecological and local economic needs are pursued simultaneously by mixing various forms or outdoor recreation, timber harvesting, and new nature-based tourism that aims to create jobs and provide the club with revenues. On this land the club currently maintains an 80-mile network of trails, three full-service lodges with private cabins in the traditional Maine sporting-camp tradition, and access for hunting and fishing, paddling, skiing, snowmobiling, and other uses.