The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy met in Charleston, with some of the members from more mountainous parts of the state snowed in and unable to attend. The Board did the usual businessy things such as hearing the financial report, approving a budget, etc. One of the notable things was that the annual fund appeal that we have in the fall did unusually well this year.
We also looked some at how we operate, both now and in the future. We pondered some on how to handle sign on letters. Almost daily President Larry gets a request from some organization asking that we lend our support to some effort that the group is undertaking. The support they ask for is signing on to a letter advocating a position. They are almost always something we would support. What should he do?
We are going to try sending all requests to the appropriate committee, which should recommend action to the board – or, on short notice, to the Executive Committee. If the request is for an immediate turnaround, we’ll have to decline.
We also made visible progress in shaping the future of the organization. For a long time, there had been unease about our future directions and how we organized ourselves. One response to that unease was the facilitated meeting on that topic in April, 2018.
Now we are considering concrete changes. The budget includes a $50,000 allocation to the Futures Committee The Committee (Frank Young, Cindy Ellis, and George Hack) is considering a new organizational structure, including a paid director.
There still remain questions about a job description and we still have to advertise for the right person. There are still questions of how we would supervise, whether we could afford the cost of a director year after year, and exact duties. The committee will keep working on this.
Regardless of the outcome of the Futures Committee’s efforts, we still saw a need for organizational development. That would include on recruiting younger members and people who’d want to work on committees. To this end, we approved an Organizational Development Committee. Luanne McGovern promptly volunteered. Jackie and Marilyn joined her, and said they would recruit Ellie Bell.
In addition to discussions about business of the organization and about our future structure, we also talked about what we are doing on various issues. Frank Young reported on action at the West Virginia Legislature. He pointed out that up-to-date information on the current session comes out every Friday in the GREEN, published by the Environmental Council (and forwarded to board members by Larry). The Jan. 17 edition lists 100 bills our lobby team is following.
The lobby team’s priorities this session are (1) water quality—updating civil and administrative penalties for violations; (2) a Clean Drinking Water Act, to reduce public exposure to toxic chemicals; (3) the Citizens for Clean Elections bill; (4) a resolution favoring an Environmental Rights Amendment; (5) the Modern Jobs Act proposed by Del. Even Hansen; and (6) legalizing Power Purchase Agreements.
Frank said our support for the lobby team is matched dollar for dollar only by Sierra Club. Rivers Coalition’s contribution is both financial and in-kind: Angie Rosser’s very active lobbying and advice. Together, this is our team, pushing our priorities.
We discussed a worrisome bill (not yet filed, but expected), Sen. Maynard’s pet project to expand off-road vehicle trails, possibly on public lands.
While we were on the subject of legislation, Larry noted that he is seeking an additional representative to the E-Council board, mainly to participate in the weekly conference call when he’s not available.
Public Lands Committee: Kent Karriker reported on several Forest Service projects we’re monitoring and commenting on. With the current administration, there’s more emphasis on “Big Gulp” projects, always incorporating some logging along with habitat restoration, recreation, etc. We have a cooperative relationship with the Forest Service. Although we did file a formal objection to one proposal, they have generally appreciated our attention to sensitive areas and particular issues. Friends of Blackwater and the Center for Biological Diversity are the other organizations who are paying close attention. Briefly, the projects they/we are currently working on:
Big Rock, in the Gauley Ranger District, S of Webster Springs—after we filed an objection to the original plan, the project was stopped due to presence of the candy darter, a recently-listed endangered species. It is currently on hold.
Panther Ridge, in Marlinton/White Sulphur Ranger District—a “minor victory,” said Kent, as the Forest Service sent a multi-page response to our complaints about inadequate analysis of environmental effects. Kent attributed the problem to time pressure.
Beulah, Greenbrier Ranger District—Draft Environmental Assessment out 1 year, no progress.
Spruce Mt. Grouse Management—we decided not to object, after Forest Service agreed to alter the project to reduce impacts to Flying Squirrel habitat.
Grassy Ridge, Cheat-Potomac Ranger District, upper Big Run of North Fork—Larry attended a meeting on this on Jan. 15; it looks OK so far.
Upper Elk River, Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger District, Gauley Mt.—recent scoping meeting; Mauch Chunk geology is an issue of concern.
Greenbrier SE, Greenbrier Ranger District, along VA border—we participated in scoping, submitted comments, Draft Environmental Assessment is expected soon. One potential snag, as at Big Rock, is the candy darter. Rick Webb has submitted detailed new maps addressing the cumulative impact of project activities on sensitive trout streams.
On Jan. 30, we’re invited to a Forest Service long-range planning meeting in Elkins. Kent and Larry are set to go, and we hope Rick can attend.
Plans for the Fall Review are coming along, thanks to the work of Jackie Burns and Marilyn Shoenfeld. The event is scheduled for the weekend after Columbus Day at Twin Falls Resort State Park, in Wyoming County near Pineville and Mullens. They’re hoping for 50 people. We have budgeted an amount will cover some scholarships. The theme will be Healthy Waters. Speakers and outings are still being planned.
The new Climate Change Committee has been active. Its Chair, Perry Bryant, Perry reported on the committee’s threefold plan: (1) survey our membership; (2) write a monthly column in the Voice; (3) meet April 11 at Marilyn’s to agree on and draw up a policy statement for the organization. We are going to announce in the February Voice that we are doing a survey. Then we will email the survey to those for whom we have updated email addresses. For those for whom we do not have addresses, we will put the survey in the March Voice.