By John McFerrin
For the latest of what seemed like too many times in a row we gathered in our little Zoom boxes to take care of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s business. Some of the meeting was uneventful with people saying things such as, “we did stuff; read about it in the Voice.” While that was routine, we also moved forward with a dramatic change for the Conservancy.
In matters legislative, for example, Frank Young reported that he had previously distributed a report which would be in the February, 2021, issue of the Voice. In extractive industries, Cindy Rank reported that the committee had been active, as reflected in stories in the February Voice.
In matters of public lands, Kent Karriker reported on various projects that we are involved in reviewing, commenting on, etc. See his story on page 4 of this issue as well as in President Larry Thomas’s story on page 2. He also talked about problems at Dolly Sods. There are problems with overuse and other issues. The Forest Service is preparing a plan to address these issues. There is a meeting scheduled to discuss this.
In matters of highways, Hugh Rogers reported that Corridor H Alternatives is sending a letter reminding the Department of Highways that interested citizens remain interested, even after all these years, and reminding it that the crossing of Blackwater Canyon remains controversial.
We did manage to make some small decisions. Larry has been the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy representative to the West Virginia Environmental Council. We switched out Larry for Frank Young.
We also decided to join the West Virginia Climate Alliance. It is comprised of environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, civil rights organizations and young adults. The primary purpose of the Climate Alliance is “to provide science-based education on climate change to West Virginia citizens and policymakers.”
Having warmed up with the smaller decisions, we moved on to the big decisions: the budget.
Most of the budget discussion was focused on three main items: (a) should we create an administrative position such as a Program Director; (b) should we provide additional support for the National Forest Mapping project and follow-up monitoring of the reclamation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline by the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is a member); (c) should we increase our support of the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative by supporting a Red Spruce Outreach Coordinator to assist Dave Saville in his efforts with the CASRI coalition.
We decided to continue support for the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance. This is an ongoing effort although our support will be less than in the past.
Questions remained about the Red Spruce Outreach Coordinator position especially from newer board members who aren’t familiar with the specifics of the inner workings of the Red Spruce program and WVHC’s role in the effort. Larry is to meet with Dave Saville to help prepare a presentation for the board describing in greater detail the who what and how of the CASRI coalition, what are the roles and contributions of the many organizations and agencies involved in the effort, the specific role of WV Highlands Conservancy and Dave in the overall project, etc.
The big decision was to put funding for a Program Director in the budget. In all of our existence we have never had that type of position. We have paid a stipend to the editor of The Highlands Voice and have paid someone to manage our membership list, fulfil store orders, etc. We have never had anyone to direct our programs. This is a big step in that direction, a big step for the organization.
Even though this is a big step, the Board thought it was the right one. We have talked about it a lot, had a Futures Committee talk about it, and thought this was the best route to take. We are confident that this will make us more effective in carrying out our goal of preserving and protecting the highlands of West Virginia.
For more information on what a Program Director would do, see the job posting on p. 10.