By John McFerrin
It was a strange, pandemic warped Board meeting with us all sitting snugly at home, watching each other on our computer screens. In spite of the oddness of the method and place (everywhere and nowhere) of the meeting, we still managed to learn some things and get some things done.
Because of the pandemic, we did not get to have an annual meeting. This means that the terms of some of our Board members expired and we had none to replace them. To fix this, Larry used the powers granted him by the bylaws to appoint Kent Karriker, Jackie Burns, Jim VanGundy, Randy Kessling, and Patricia Gundrum to serve as Board members until our next Annual Meeting, scheduled for the fall of 2021. We are also going to keep the same officers until the next Annual Meeting.
Larry reported that we are named as a beneficiary in an estate. There is litigation over the validity of the will so it is not clear what, if anything, we will receive.
We have received a questionnaire from the West Virginia Environmental Council about our legislative priorities for the 2021 Legislative session. Larry will fill it out.
Rick Webb made a presentation about the Conservation Hub. This is an effort to bring the expertise that was gained in the Conservation Surveillance Initiative to other projects. It is a way of gathering and presenting information, doing maps that have different layers to present different kinds of information. They learned how to do this through analysis and advocacy around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Now the goal is to make it available to such projects as the Forest Service’s Greenbrier Southeast project, Corridor H, the Rocky Forge Wind Farm, or the habitat of the endangered Candy Darter. Read more about the project in the story on p. 12.
There is a cost to assembling this information for different projects, a cost that could be borne by those people or groups interested in a particular project. Rick thinks it would be appropriate for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to sponsor such an effort for the Monongahela National Forest although he did not make a specific funding request.
Perry Bryant presented on the activities of the Climate Change Committee. The Committee presented a proposed climate change policy. It does not advocate for any specific proposal but rather advocates for following the science with a goal of a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2035. We adopted the policy on climate change as well as one limiting the use of single use plastics. Both of these policies are the subject of stories on pages 4 of this issue.
Perry also proposed that we allocate to the Climate Change Committee $5,000 to use for educational materials and advocacy on climate change issues. There was no motion or a vote but it was the sense of the meeting that this was a good idea and we should address this in the budget for 2021.
We had been noticing problems with overcrowding at Dolly Sods. Dave Saville had talked to representatives of the Forest Service. They don’t have any specific plans to address the problem. They have a new tool for measuring such things as crowding, naturalness, and solitude that will help them figure out how to address the problem. It was his impression that the Forest Service would welcome some citizen advocacy on this issue. The Public Lands Committee will consider this.
Because the meeting was on line, we didn’t have our usual reports from committees. Instead, committee chairs made written reports that were distributed before the meeting. In legislative news, Frank Young reported that much of the energy that usually goes into planning for the Legislature had gone into electoral politics, determining who will be in the Legislature. While West Virginia Highlands Conservancy doesn’t do electoral politics, many of the people who volunteer with the Environmental Council are active. Once the election is over planning for the Legislative session will begin in earnest. In the meantime, the WV Environmental Council is polling its member organizations for their most favored issues for legislative lobbying in 2021. Those issues will be refined for lobbying prioritization after the elections tell us the likely general environmental attitudes of incoming legislators, and their receptiveness to sound environmental policymaking.
Cindy Rank reported for the Extractive Industries Committee on controversies at various stages. The Mammoth project was the subject of a big story in the October issue of The Highlands Voice. She also reported on ongoing litigation at the Bluestone mine in McDowell County over selenium discharges. It is scheduled for hearing although settlement is always possible. She also reported on developments at the Leer mine and with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both of these are the subjects of stories elsewhere in this issue.
Kent Karriker reported on the activities of the Public Lands Committee. The Committee is participating to some extent in six different Forest Service projects. Since the projects are at different stages of planning, the participation is different in each. In some the Committee has managed to nudge the Forest Service in a more favorable direction. In others, it is still gathering information.
The Committee is also participating in West Virginians for Public Lands, is a meta-group composed of several environmental groups that have an interest in the management of West Virginia’s public lands. The group is led by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, which provides a paid staffer to coordinate the group (WVHC and others contribute funding).