What is a Summit Steward?
Summit Stewards are trained educators and naturalists put on mountain summits to educate hikers about alpine ecosystems and reduce hiker impacts to alpine vegetation. Through a combination of education and outreach, trail work, and educational signage, Summit Stewards have proven to be highly effective at protecting alpine vegetation by increasing public awareness of the fragility of alpine ecosystems. First developed by the Green Mountain Club in the 1970′s, the Summit Steward model has since been adopted by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Dartmouth Outing Club, and Baxter State Park.
Summit Stewards on Mt. Monadnock
The first season of Summit Stewards on Mt. Monadnock was the summer and fall of 2009. Funding was provided by the Guy Waterman Alpine Stewardship Fund. This funding along with Federal work-study grants allowed MERE to place graduate students on the mountain during the busiest weekends and holidays. Summit Stewards work to educate the general public about the mountain and their impact on it. Since 2009, MERE stewards have spoken in person to at least 13,000 visitors on the summit. We continue the effort to communicate good stewardship to the public through our educational programs, our summit stewards, and welcome summit hosts to expand the effort.
Conservation of Alpine Vegetation
The bare rocks of the upper slopes of Mt. Monadnock are home to beautiful and unique alpine vegetation including rare plant species that, in New England, are only found above tree-line in the alpine zone. These hardy alpine species thrive in the harsh conditions commonly experienced above tree-line yet they cannot survive a hiker’s footstep.
Conservation of rare alpine vegetation in New England has been a recognized concern of non-profit, educational and government organizations since the 1930′s. Significant work has been done in this area by such conservation organizations as the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Green Mountain Club, Baxter State Park, and the Dartmouth Outing Club. A decline in abundance of alpine species on Mt. Monadnock was acknowledged in the Monadnock Guide published in 1980. Since then visitation to Mt. Monadnock has increased from approximately 65,000 visitors to more than 100,000 visitors annually. Without protection alpine vegetation on Mt. Monadnock is likely to succumb to trampling by thousands of human footsteps as hikers stray off the trail and onto fragile plants.
Practicum and Work-Study Opportunities
If you are an AUNE student interested in working or volunteering with the Mt. Monadnock Summit Stewardship program please contact MERE director and AUNE faculty Peter Palmiotto. The general public can contact Lee Willette at Monadnock State Park.