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Public Lands Alliance honors Friends of the Smokies, GSMA, New Belgium

KODAK, TN – The Public Lands Alliance (PLA) has announced the recipients of its 2018 Partnership Awards that celebrate the best in public lands partnerships. These awards honor individuals, organizations, publications, products, programs and services that embody leading edge achievements in the preservation of public lands and the enrichment of visitors.

public lands rehab
Friends of the Smokies' Trails Forever program included restoration of the Alum Cave Bluffs trail. Image courtesy of Friends of the Smokies.

public lands rehab
Friends of the Smokies' Trails Forever program included restoration of the Chimney Tops trail. Image courtesy of Friends of the Smokies.

Friends of the Smokies’ Trails Forever program was nominated for the Outstanding Public Engagement Award which recognizes exemplary programs or services created in partnership by a nonprofit organization and public lands that advance meaningful and sustainable connections between individuals and America’s public lands. The Trails Forever program is a partnership between Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park to rehabilitate some of the park’s most heavily impacted trails. While the Trails Forever program did not win its category, it was awarded the Partners Choice Award as the most inspiring submission, decided by popular vote. Great Smoky Mountains Association received an honorable mention for Outstanding Public Engagement for the 2017 Solar Eclipse Events in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

New Belgium Brewing received the Corporate Stewardship Award on behalf of their philanthropic and partnership efforts with Friends of the Smokies. This award recognizes a company that has demonstrated exceptional achievement to enhance the quality of the visitor experience in America’s public lands.

“New Belgium has been an important partner of Friends of the Smokies ever since they put down roots in the Asheville area,” said Anna Zanetti, Friends of the Smokies’ North Carolina Director. “We were proud to nominate them for their generous support and environmental conservation efforts.”

The Public Lands Alliance also recognized 11 nonprofit organizations who have stepped up and have swiftly worked with their land management agency partners to help their public lands recover from recent wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. PLA established the Public Lands Hero Award to celebrate individuals and organizations whose actions exceed the high standards to which all public lands partners aspire. The PLA Board of Directors honored the following nonprofit organizations in recognition of their exemplary responses to natural disasters and crises affecting the public lands and communities that they support:

Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association, Eastern National, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, Glacier National Park Conservancy, National Park Foundation, South Florida National Parks Trust, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Student Conservation Association, Timucuan Parks Foundation, and Western National Park Association.

“Moments of crisis remind us of the critical importance and value of strong partnerships between land managers and nonprofit partners,” said PLA Executive Director Dan Puskar. “Hurricanes and wildfires unexpectedly impact many of our public lands, and it is strong partnerships that provide the resiliency needed to bounce back from their destructive impacts.”

Friends of the Smokies is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised more than $60 million to support critical park programs and maintain the Smokies as a crown jewel of the National Park Service. Find your park at

The Public Lands Alliance is a network of more than 130 member organizations that serve more than 600 public lands and contribute over $250 million dollars annually to the preservation and visitor enhancement of those lands. PLA members are found in all states and territories and provide operational and interpretive support to nonprofit organizations and their land management agency partners.

Published March 5, 2018

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