May 07, 2014PINKHAM'S GRANT — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat of Rochester, slipped north of the First Congressional District on Friday to visit the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), ostensibly to formally announce a $2 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to help repair roads and bridges on three Forest Service routes in Carroll County on the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), all damaged in late August 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene.
Work on FS Route 17 (Slippery Brook Road) will include riprap installation, plus ditch and road slide repairs, while work on both FS Route 27 (Rocky Branch Road) and FS Route 38 (East Branch Road) includes bridge replacement.
In January 2013, Shea-Porter voted for bipartisan disaster relief funding totaling $2 billion for the FHA's Emergency Relief for Federally Owned (ERFO) Roads Program, of which this project is a small part.
Shea-Porter explained on Thursday morning that she was honored to be at the hub of the AMC's activities in New Hampshire in the beautiful White Mountains located on the WMNF itself.
After she heard a number of AMC longtime staffers describe their work, Shea-Porter explained that the state's Congressional delegation had written "a pretty strong letter" to the federal Department of Energy (DOE) in an effort to ensure that all alternative routes for the proposed Northern Pass project would be explored.
She also brought up the controversial proposed Keystone pipeline project that, she said, has fractured relationships between the environmental community and construction unions.
"We're struggling to be fair to everybody and fair to the next generation," the congresswoman explained.
Shea-Porter said that a trip to the White Mountains for her, like many, is "like coming to Candy Land" but that the work being done here is serious.
"We need good legislation to have clean air," she explained, noting that she is easily able to combine her role as a legislator with that of being a wife and mother since her husband and both their children suffer from asthma.
In his opening remarks, Appalachian Mountain Club president John Judge noted that the WMNF was created due to the leadership of Massachusetts Congressman John W. Weeks, a Lancaster native who played a key role in the passage of the Weeks Act of 1911
Judge thanked Shea-Porter, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, for her efforts in helping to secure funds to maintain trails and other amenities on the WMNF and to adequately fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), designed to conserve land and support public recreation.
Shea-Porter responded by saying that there is both a moral and an economic obligation to protect the state's beautiful open spaces, managing them so that local businesses can thrive today while also allowing the next generations to enjoy what we value.
Shea-Porter recalled when she first heard Granite State farmers complaining about what we now think of as attributes of "climate change," including a shorter maple sugaring season and more ticks in the fields and woods.
Publics funds are in short supply, however, and Shea-Porter said she is working to see if the monies needed to fight forest fires out West can "come from a different pot" than the dollars needed for ongoing WMNF maintenance and research.
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling upholding the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that regulates pollution crossing state lines is "a wonderful victory for New Hampshire."
Judge quantified AMC's work, including getting 60,000 kids outdoors in 2013 and rallying 16,000 volunteers in leading hikes, maintaining trails, and acting as conservation stewards from Maine to Washington, D.C.
AMC vice president of conservation and policy Susan Arnold said that AMC's partnership and collaboration with the Forest Service on the WMNF is unique in the nation, encompassing as it does volunteer search and rescue (SAR) services, citizen education and important research.
USFS spokesman Tiffany Benna confirmed that AMC's work is greatly valued, especially in Pinkham Notch where the WMNF is heavily used, from spring skiing in Tuckerman's Ravine to those heading up to the Mount Washington summit and a Presidential traverse in the warmer months. "It's a great location and a great hut," Benna said.
Shea-Porter thanked all the USFS employees on the WMNF, who she noted, must be "on" all the time.
AMC Director of Research Dr. Kenneth Kimball and staff scientist Georgia Murray, a Freedom native who lives in Conway, discussed AMC's ongoing research on haze, particulates, ozone, and acid rain as well as the data mining of both longtime and up-to-the-minute records on which both the AMC and the Mount Washington Observatory collaborate. AMC Naturalist Nicky Pizzo of Gorham, who directs family and adult programs, said that AMC's offerings range from a single-day events to those lasting up to five days.
AMC Backcountry Resource Conservation Manager Sally Manikian of Shelburne showed the congresswoman some of the interpretive panel designs that will be installed on Mt. Jasper in Berlin as part of a project in which she serves as a volunteer resource.
AMC's North Country Youth Programs Director Andrea Muller of Jefferson said that 3,000 area kids a year participate in the nonprofit organization's overnight-stay education programs. She later introduced Shea-Porter to a group of lively students from Berwick, Me., who were participating in AMC's "Mountain Classroom" along with their teachers.
The congresswoman also hiked a half-mile up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to view Crystal Cascade, which gave her a chance to learn more about the ongoing research that is taking place on the WMNF.