Your outdoor news for March 20, 2013:

Walking Off the War

A new program created by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is helping veterans heal through the power of nature. “Walk Off the War” will provide 13 military vets with fully funded scholarships to hike the Appalachian Trail and “reconnect with the United States in a uniquely physical and psychological way.” These soldiers will not have to thru-hike exactly, but basically just take in the nature the trail affords and hopefully return to society with a “greater opportunity for success in their personal and professional lives.” The A.T. has always beckoned those that are troubled; the distance, time, self-reliance, interaction with other hikers, and the trail town friendliness have a way of washing away what ails you. This is truly a great program that hopefully will be around for years to come to help our heros recover from the harsh realities of conflicts around the world.

A full list of sponsors and participants can be found here.

Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Retiring

Phil Francis is hanging up his wide-brimmed ranger hat and retiring. Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway since 2005 – only the sixth in the BRP’s history – Francis presided over the parkway’s first ever general management plan and was awarded the Department of the Interior’s Superior Service Award. Since joining the National Park Service in 1972 – DAMN! – he has worked all over the map including Yosemite, Shenandoah, Chattanooga, and GSMNP. He is a native of North Carolina, and will settle back in WNC in April. In these lean times, a NPS player with the experience of Francis will be missed.

Fought the Law, and the Law Won

From the “Is this really happening?” file comes a story about the Ogeechee River in Georgia. A judge has denied the shutdown of a known polluter of the river, saying the benefits of what the factory makes outweigh the negatives it causes to the environment. Humph. In May, 2011, the Ogeechee was the site of a fish kill that claimed 38,000 fish, all down river of the King America Finishing discharge pipe which was apparently dumping chemicals without a permit. The order states: “The legislature and the Director are both authorized by law to make these ‘guns or butter’ economic decisions, balancing the externalities of pollution – our innocent children will swim in an ocean we are allowing to contain some small quantity of formaldehyde and other pollutants — against the benefits of industry — the parents of these same innocent children have jobs and out workers including brave firefighters have fire retardant clothing.” The whole thing STINKS, and the comments section of the Savannah Now website tell most of the story.