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NMU grad Branham earns 2020 North Country Trail Assn. Rising Star Award

LYNNAE BRANHAM

MARQUETTE — The North Country Trail Association is a national non-profit volunteer organization that works with the National Park Service to build, maintain, promote and protect the Congressionally approved North Country National Scenic Trail as it traverses approximately 4,600 miles from Vermont, to North Dakota.

Lynnae Branham, 2020 Northern Michigan University graduate majoring in Environmental Studies & Sustainability, was honored Aug. 6 at the North Country Trail Association Annual Awards presentation via Zoom with the 2020 NCTA Rising Star Award. This award goes to an NCTA member between the ages of 8 and 25 who has made significant contributions to the trail and seems likely to continue, and whose dedication to the trail and the NCTA sets an example to other youths and shows exceptional promise. according to a press release.

At the beginning of the fall semester of 2018, Branham approached the local chapter regarding her interest in trying to start a club called NMU Conservation Crew. She was hoping to partner up local trail networks. The basis of the club would be to perform conservation tasks — erosion maintenance, trail grooming or building, picking up trash, etc. — to preserve beloved local lands but also teach students how to do their part and make a difference. She also hoped to educate students about wildlife, plants, Leave No Trace principles, and wildness safety.

The NCT Hikers Chapter, based here in Marquette, welcomed her idea and offered support, the press release states. Over the next year and a half, Branham did an amazing job, not only with the NCT Hikers chapter but also with other local organizations, i.e. Lake Superior Watershed Partnership, Noquemanon Trail Network, MI DNR, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Alger County Conservation District.

The NMU Conservation Crew became a campus-approved student group. Branham was the lead student through most of this time.

For the NCT Hikers chapter, she arranged several trail maintenance days where she brought members of the NMU Conservation Crew out with our Trail Crew to build and maintain trail. She joined the NCTA Next Generation Coalition where she became active, including attending the first ever Next Generation Summit in the Porcupine Mountains where the group helped build new North Country Trail. She was highlighted in a post on Jan. 18, 2020 on the NCTA Facebook page. From that post: “Meet Lynnae, a member of the NCTA Next Generation Coalition and fantastic North Country Trail photographer! Lynnae is a student at Northern Michigan University and joined the Coalition in 2019 to ‘reestablish and develop people’s sense of place through advocacy and adventure’ on the Trail. She is an active member of the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the North Country Trail Association and is the founder/president of the NMU Conservation Crew (NMUCC). She attended the first Next Gen Summit last summer and is looking forward to advocating for the Trail in Washington D.C. at Hike the Hill in February.”

The release states Branham planned to attend the 2020 Hike the Hill but due to being ill and losing time for school work had to cancel that just before it happened.

Branham also did a presentation to the NCT Hikers chapter at its May 14, 2019 general membership meeting on why she wanted to start the NMU Conservation Crew and what they had accomplished since their founding.

The NCT Hikers Chapter was concerned that as Branham moved through her program and graduated that the NMU Conservation Crew would falter. So far that is not the case, according to the release, and Branham did an excellent job of recruiting students to fill her shoes and Jacklyn Lenten, the new president has already joined the local chapter as well as several other students. Branham just graduated and here is what was posted on the NMU Conservation Crew Facebook page about her: “Congratulations on graduating to our fearless founder, Lynnae!! This club quite literally would not exist without this amazing girl! Lynnae is the most passionate environmentalist you will ever meet, she’s done so many amazing things on and off campus and the Marquette area is lucky to have her around! Of course she’s going to go on to do incredible things and the club is going to try our best to carry on her legacy and make her proud!!”

The press release states: “Lynnae is certainly a gungho young lady and loves the NCT with all her heart. She is very deserving of the 2020 NCTA Rising Star award.”

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