Appalachian Program

The Mountain Institute was founded in 1972 in order to ensure the passing of values from one generation to the next by leading father and son trips in the wild places in West Virginia. Its work quickly expanded to experiential and leadership education for West Virginia's youth. TMI formally expanded into an international organization in 1987, when it assisted in the establishment of two new protected areas in Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

Today, the Appalachian Program focuses on developing an understanding and appreciation for the complex interaction between community, culture, and conservation through education and sustainable community initiatives. The heart of the program is the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, which serves as the homebase for TMI's wide variety of Mountain Learning courses. TMI has run over 1,000 Mountain Learning courses through the years. Most have been based right in West Virginia, but they have also traveled as far as the rugged and isolated Allagash River of Maine and the biodiverse hotspot of the Florida Keys. Wherever they take place, these programs bring adventure, group process skills, leadership development, conservation, and environmental education together in a rigorous and invigorating environment.

The Mountain Institute custom designs programs to meet client desires. This includes programs for upper elementary through university students, professional development workshops for teachers, Wilderness First Responder & First Aid Courses, summer camps, and many other opportunities.

It is the mission of Mountain Learning Programs to help people become powerful, secure, knowledgeable individuals with a clear vision of their responsibilities and potential for improving the human condition and the natural world.


Pendleton Community Care - In 1981, TMI conducted a countywide survey to determine the most pressing needs of Pendleton County, WV - where the Appalachia Program is still based today. The greatest need expressed was for greater access to health care. By July 1,1982 the clinic was incorporated in the county seat of Franklin as a not-for-profit organization. It opened for business Oct. 1.

Appalachian Watershed & Stream Monitors - This watershed assessment and stream sampling training, education and community service program has trained dozens of teachers and thousands of students since 2005.

Mountaineer Food Bank - Founded by TMI in 1981, the Mountaineer Food Bank works to alleviate hunger in West Virginia. It is the state's largest supplier of food and personal products for people in need of emergency assistance, serving over 500 programs in 48 counties in West Virginia.

West Virginia Scholars Academy  - TMI raised West Virginia's college going rate from 49th to 46th in the nation with the Scholars Academy. From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, bright and promising high school students from throughout the state came to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center for a summer enrichment program that would help to prepare them for college and the life beyond.

Exchanges and Study Tours - Since its inception The Mountain Institute has promoted the exchange of ideas and learning between mountain communities across the globe. We have conducted exchanges between Tibetans and Peruvians, Nepalis and Chinese, Indians and Nepalis, Tibetans and Americans, and West Virginians with North Carolinians.

Remote Mountain Area Climate Change Research Initative - This project will develop community surveys and a data analysis methodology that will increase our understanding of mountain people's perceptions, threats, current adaptations, and needs regarding climate change.

Blister Swamp Conservation and Restoration Project - This project commenced in 1999 to protect and monitor change in 150 acres of unique, privately-owned wetland habitat in the highlands of West Virginia. Long-term conservation in the area has been ensured through partner and private landowner agreements.