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NPCA Official Selected To Lead The Appalachian Trail Conservancy


Ron Tipton, the senior vice president for policy of the National Parks Conservation Association, is leaving that position to take over as executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. ATC photo.

Ron Tipton, whose resume reflects a career spent on advocating for the outdoors, has been chosen to lead the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as its executive director.

Mr. Tipton most recently has worked as the senior vice president for policy for the National Parks Conservation Association. He will leave that job next month to join the Conservancy.

Mr. Tipton has spent most of the past 30+ years as an advocate for public land preservation and national park protection. A graduate of George Washington University with an undergraduate degree in American Studies and a law degree from GW’s National Law Center, he first worked as a program officer at the National Academy of Sciences and on the oversight/investigative staff of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee.

Since 1978 he has been a part of the advocacy and/or management team of four non-profit national conservation organizations: The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund, and National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

Mr. Tipton was the senior vice president for programs for NPCA from 2000-2008, when he became the senior vice president for policy. Currently, he is focused on expanding the number of national park units to increase the natural and cultural diversity of the park system as the country approaches the 2016 centennial celebration of the National Park Service.

“Ron has the passion, management experience, and advocacy skills that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is looking for, plus a strong connection to the Appalachian Trail and the Trail community. His high standards and experience will help move the organization forward to serve the next generation of Trail users," said Bob Almand, who chairs the Conservancy's board of directors.

Mr. Tipton has been a member of the board or governing council of numerous recreation and trails organizations, including the ATC, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association.

“I feel incredibly privileged and honored to be asked to be Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s executive director/CEO. Since I hiked the Trail I have served as a volunteer for more than 25 years with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and helped found the Appalachian Long Distance Hiker’s Association," said Mr. Tipton.

Mr. Tipton enters the ATC at a time of growth and an expanding agenda for preserving the rich natural and cultural resources along the Trail corridor. The ATC currently has more than 43,000 members, a vast network of more than 6,000 volunteers, and an operating budget of $7.3 million.

The ATC is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting and promoting the world’s most famous long-distance hiking Trail, providing outdoor recreation and educational opportunities for Trail visitors.

Founded in 1925, the ATC is a 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and has regional offices in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. The ATC is both a confederation of 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs, with assignments to maintain the Trail, and a membership organization with support from all 50 states and more than 15 foreign countries. Under agreements that date back to the 1930s, buttressed by federal legislation, the ATC leads a cooperative management system for the Trail in close cooperation with federal, state and local agencies and Trail-maintaining clubs.

Given the Trail’s historic legacy of volunteerism, many of the ATC’s programs are focused on supporting and encouraging volunteers. Some of the key activities and initiatives include Trail management and support, conservation, advocacy, and environmental monitoring and research. Some of the ATC’s new initiatives include the Trail to Every Classroom and the Appalachian Trail Community™ program.

The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is a unit of the National Park System, stretching from Georgia to Maine, at approximately 2,180 miles in length. Volunteers typically donate more than 220,000 hours of their time doing trail-related work each year, and about 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the A.T. each year.


I hope that this guy doesn't bring a "national Park Service does no wrong" mentality into his new position. The unfortunate bent of these types is that they bring an attitude of "the poor, poor, NPS." He needs to check with the ATC and see how unpopular many of the fees are especially in the Smokies. There was talk of rescinding authorization within the ATC for the backcountry fee in the Smokies as it would be pretty much the only place along the AT where a credit card is required for passage. This is a dangerous slope for the ATC to take. As the lawsuit over the fee matriculates (the smokies and NPS have asked for two extensions to get their books in order before the trial. Word is they have even pulled their chief ranger in order to make sure their ducks are in a row)

This new guy could bring some fresh eyes into the controversy, but I'm not personally holding my breath.

Another problem with "these types" are those who feel that "national Park Service does all wrong" is the proper mentality. You've dropped a lot of unsupported conjecture into one paragraph, based on your own baggage. Why saddle him with that?


Look where he comes from. the NPCA. Have you ever seen the NPCA ever go against the NPS on anything? They are nothing more than an open policy rubber stamp for the NPS. That is why he was chosen from those ranks for the same reason Sally Jewell was chosen from the ranks of NPS concessionaires to lead the agency. C'mon. Its not that difficult to follow the money trails here.

backpacker--You have to be kidding! NPCA frequently disagrees with the NPS. For instance, it has been on the NPS's butt since the early 2000s about its snowmobile policies in Yellowstone. Read their testimony. Same deal with the use of personal watercraft in areas of the National Park System. We used to call them our most articulate critics. I know you are angry about the backcoutry fee in the Smokies. That is a legitimate point of view, but don't let it color your attitude about everything else related to the NPS.

If I am not mistaken, Secretary Jewell was the CEO of REI, not an NPS concessioner. And Tipton is a good guy.



REI IS a NPS concessionaire. They take bookings for reservations for backpacking trips in the Smokies and have for several years. They contract through a local guide service that has a ridiculously inappopropriate relationship with the park superintendent which is a driving force behind the fee proposal in the first place. REI supported the fee prior to Jewell's ascension to the throne because it freed up shelter spots for their paying clients. As you peel back the layers, the money trail between the likes of REI types and their employees and the NPS adminstration reeks on multiple levels. These things will be exposed in the lawsuit when the NPS is done stalling with their multiple requests for extensions.

As far as this NPCA guy is concerned, please show me where he has ever objected to any fees in the NPS. If I have missed it, then I would like to see where it is documented.

And objecting to fees is the only standard of his competence?


I have known and worked with Ron for almost 30 years. About the last description I can think of for him is having a "National Park Service can do no wrong" attitude. He has been involved in the full range of land conservation issues, and always taken a strong preservationist stand.

Regarding concessionaires, I agree that there are problems -- as always. And I'm not a big fan of fees. But if those were the biggest issues we had to worry about, we would be in pretty good shape. While we are nit-picking about NPS imperfections, the Forest Service and BLM are logging, grazing, fracking, mining, and allowing ORV abuse on millions of acres of public land. Those are real problems and they are getting worse.

Of course, none of those uses are allowed on NPS lands (with a few odd exceptions forced on the agency by Congress). We need to transfer as much Forest Service and BLM land to the National Park System before we lose more nationally significant places.

National Park System expansion is one of the things where Ron Tipton has shown that he has vision and leadership. We need more of that. The ATC is lucky to get him.

Michael - let me know when you you stop using wood, stop eating meat, stop using petrolueum products, metals, potash or any other mined substance, stop using electricity generated by coal et al. Then we can discuss restricting more land from these activities. Special lands deserve protection but every piece of Federal dirt is not special.

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