By Larry Thomas
Spring has arrived in our mountains. As winter fades away, driving along one finds evidence of the different stages of the transition. While in some areas the trees are greening with this year’s leaves, here on North Fork Mountain trees are still the stately statues of winter waiting for it to get a little warmer. The birds have returned and are very busy with their nesting rituals. Mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter have reappeared and are scurrying about filling long empty stomachs. Spring flowers and fruit trees are blooming. I observed many honey bees on the blossoms of a peach tree the other day. It will be interesting to discover their hive during the summer. I love this poem “Spring” by Susan Filson.
Spring appears in whispers
and hushed tones
as the bellowing winter
Drowsy flowers come to
waking from their sleep-
with heads turned upward towards
the Maestro called sun-
I watch with Anticipation
As the concert begins.
In the April edition of “The Highlands Voice” I mentioned that during the 50thAnniversary celebration activities, the Board requested that members provide ideas to be considered for WVHC for the future. Many great suggestions were received and after a presentation and review of the suggestions at the January Board meeting, it was decided that the April Review should be devoted to a facilitated discussion of the suggestions. The Spring Review took place April 20, 21 and 22. Those who arrived on Friday evening engaged in catching up and discussing current issues. Saturday was devoted to the facilitated meeting and the quarterly Board meeting took place on Sunday. It was a great weekend.
The Saturday meeting was facilitated by Becky Mathis-Stump, Chief Operating Officer of Ethos Leadership Group, LLC. and started with a discussion of The Nonprofit Lifecycle which an organization might go through during it’s existence. Those cycles are Idea, Start-up, Growth, Maturity, Decline and Crisis and are analyzed through the categories of Programs, Human Resources, Board, Financials and Marketing. That provided for an interesting discussion and it was decided that WVHC is in the Growth and Maturity stages of our lifecycle.
Becky then asked what does WVHC stand for as an organization? We responded that since 1967, our volunteers have been protecting the air, water, forests, streams, and mountains, as well as the health and welfare of our communities through Education, Information, Legislation and Research. We pointed out that to fulfill our mission, WVHC engages in five key activities:
- We advocate for specific environmental concerns, including clean air & water, preservation of public lands, wise management of natural resources, and the health and welfare of our residents and visitors.
- We ensure our natural resources are being protected by monitoring compliance with laws, agreements, and best practices associated with oil & gas, strip mining, and other activities that impact our state and initiating litigation to enforce compliance if necessary.
- We partner with other organizations that support the preservation and wise management of our state’s natural resources by sponsoring events, education, and activism, including our long-term partnership with the Spruce Restoration Project.
- We support lobbying efforts to raise awareness of environmental concerns and issues.
- We educate residents and visitors on environmental issues through our monthly publication, “The Highlands Voice”.
We then discussed the WVHC mission. The mission of the Conservancy taken straight from its organizing documents and reads:
“The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy promotes, encourages and works for the conservation – including both preservation and wise management – and appreciation of the natural resources of West Virginia and the Nation. We focus primarily on the Highlands Region of West Virginia, but our work is for the cultural, social, educational, physical health, spiritual and economic benefit of present and future generations of residents and visitors alike.”
It was suggested that perhaps WVHC could strike a balance with a simplified mission statement such as:
- Preserving West Virginia’s Natural Resources for Future Generations, or
- Preserving the Natural Resources that Make West Virginia Wild and Wonderful™
™Wild, Wonderful West Virginia is a Trademark of the WV Division of Tourism
Next, Becky asked, why are you here as a Board member? Responses included:
“I believe our state’s natural resources are the common wealth of our citizens, and we should work to preserve and protect them.”
“I understand the need for projects that are intended to advance economic opportunity in our state, but sometimes “advancement” comes with social costs that are too high, and I believe those costs are too high when projects compromise our air, water, public lands, and health.”
“West Virginia’s Highlands are the last remnant of the wildness that has earned our state the monikers of “Wild and Wonderful” and “Almost Heaven” and I want to protect that for my children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, and all future generations.”
“Many years ago, I moved to West Virginia to protect my health. It promised clean air, water, and additional natural resources that I couldn’t find in other states. I chose West Virginia as my home, and I want it to remain a healthy refuge for me, my family, and all fellow West Virginians.”
“I walk through the landscapes of West Virginia in awe of its beautiful mountains, rushing rivers, and vibrant wildlife. I want to preserve these features for generations of residents and visitors to come.”
“I want to be part of the legacy of honest, credible, honorable men and women who have worked to protect West Virginia’s natural resources, and WV Highlands Conservancy offers me that opportunity.”
“I want to save the natural habitat of the birds I love to watch, but that’s not the only environmental concern I have, and I appreciate that the WV Highlands Conservancy has maintained a broad focus and provided a platform for individuals to learn about and advocate for a wide range of environmental issues.”
Becky then pointed out how these powerful statements could be used to appeal to a larger audience of potential members.
We then moved on to a great discussion of the many suggestions provided by the membership, which were listed in the April “The Highlands Voice”.
Committees were appointed during the Board of Directors meeting to review suggested items and report back to the Board with recommendations for actions.
Again, I would like to thank the members for their recommendations, Board members for taking their weekend to participate in the facilitated meeting and Becky for facilitating Saturdays discussion. I am much looking forward to suggestions of the committees and further discussions.