Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let Freedom Ring
from the hills of New Hampshire

I just received the great news a few minutes ago from Washington Trail Association's Andrew Engelson that the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 passed the house. The yes vote was overwhelming, 285-140. A pox on WA Representative Doc Hastings (next to Jim McDermott, my least favorite congressperson from the Northwest) for trying to derail the vote with a controversial gun amendment. And no, I am not against guns-it is just the proposal to allow firearms in National Parks should be debated on its own merit-not slipped in as an amendment threatening to stall this important bill. Now, President Obama will assuredly sign this bill and I await his signature-perhaps the first act of his that I welcome. I've written about national historic trails and wildernesses that will be created under this bill, but there are plenty of other great public lands and designations in it as well. Among them, the Freedom's Way National Heritage Area close to where I grew up in southern New Hampshire.

What is the Freedom's Way NHA all about?
According to its website:

This theme is about the land: the geological events that shaped the landscape of the Native Americans for thousands of years. It is also the story of the changes wrought by the past 300 years and the development of a conservation movement that includes Henry David Thoreau, Benton MacKaye, and the present-day efforts of people like Marion Stoddart and John Hansen Mitchell. In addition to local conservation trails, there are rail trails in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, some connecting. And there are Great Meadows visitor/education centers and trails, US Fish and Wildlife Refuges, State Reservations, Audubon sites, and The Trustees of Reservations sites. There are greenway trails too.

And plenty of wonderful historic sites and conservation areas that are dear to my heart. Benton MacKaye, if you don't know who he was, is the founder of the Appalachian Trail, the nation's first long distance national scenic trail. And in this bill, two new national scenic trails join the AT. How sweet is that? I'm looking forward (as always) to returning to the home front to check out how this new designation will play out in my beloved New England. Now it's time for that Chianti!

(photo- old Monson Village, one of NH's first interior settlements, a SPNHF preserve and part of the new Freedom's Way NHA)

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