By John McFerrin
Treasurer Bob Marshall presented the financial information for the first half of 2022. Our revenue for memberships is down a little bit but that might be a result of the transition in the Membership and Fulfillment Secretary position. For a short time in the late spring the renewal notices, etc. were not going out as they normally would. Other than that, we are more or less on track.
Dave Johnston reported on the activities of the Dolly Sods Stewards. He had hoped to have enough Stewards to cover the main trailheads most of the time. There was considerable publicity including radio interviews. As a result, we got fifty new stewards and coverage is increasing. It appears that the surge of visitors to Dolly Sods in response to the pandemic has subsided and the number has returned to pre-pandemic levels. This does not mean that problems with too many visitors putting pressure on the resource have disappeared; even before the pandemic there were so many visitors that it made Wilderness values such as solitude hard to attain. Now we are back to that level.
The new vests for the Stewards have arrived. They look good, particularly since we didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get them. They make it clear that a visitor could approach without hesitation and with an expectation that the Steward would provide help.
There will also be campsite monitoring. Dave wanted to do this in 2021 but other activities precluded that. He spent the winter planning so that now they are all ready to go. They also will be working with a representative of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). SAWS has assigned a representative to work with the Forest Service; that person will be working with the Forest Service on campsite monitoring.
For the campsite monitoring, they will be using a Forest Service phone app, which sends the collected data directly to a database maintained by the Forest Service. The Stewards will be working with the Forest Service to ensure that WVHC also has access to the data for potential future study.
Solitude monitoring will be conducted again this year. Last year’s successful solitude monitoring project used a “convenience” protocol, which provides a good qualitative picture of the status of solitude in the wilderness. This year the solitude monitoring will be conducted using the “enhanced” protocol, which provides a more statistically valid sampling of trail encounters and can be used for quantitative analysis.
The main item of the Voice editor’s report was discussion of how to replace Editor John McFerrin. He has resigned from that position, effective at the end of December, 2022.
There was much discussion, most of it focusing on this question: do we want to replace John as Voice editor, continuing as we have been, or do we want to expand the position. Expanding the position would mean hiring a communications director. The communications director would be Voice editor (John’s old job) but also do things such as manage our social media presence, communicate with members, and communicate with the media.
There was a lot of discussion. There was overwhelming consensus that the Voice is valuable and should continue. There was also general agreement that we need a robust social media presence. The consensus fell apart on how we get there. We did not really know what all would be involved in managing our social media presence, etc. Would editing the Voice plus all the other things be a full time job? Should the social media, etc. be a part time job with the Voice editor being another part time job?
We didn’t resolve these questions so President Larry appointed a committee to figure it all out. To see a result of the committee’s work so far, see the advertisement on p.15.
Program Director Cory Chase reported on our revitalized outings program. We have four currently scheduled. He is also exploring the possibility of some Meet the Ranger programs in which people can meet and talk with various rangers from the national forests.
Rick Webb reported on Public Lands. He has recently become the Executive Director of the Appalachian-Blue Ridge Alliance and is spending a lot of time working on its Conservation Hub. Its mission is to obtain and assemble information into an accessible form. The core of its work is its mapping.
He also said that the Conservancy is involved in one way or another with six projects or proposed projects in the Monongahela National Forest. There are two more in the wings. The Public Lands Committee is also looking at how President Biden’s Executive Order on old growth forests. In April, 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order designed to safeguard mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, combat global deforestation, etc. The Committee will be looking at what that means for forest policy in the West Virginia highlands.
Luanne McGovern reported on the status of All Terrain Vehicles on public lands. She has been following the issue and finds that the effort to use public lands for ATVs is ubiquitous. There are Facebook groups devoted to the issue and support from manufacturers of ATVs. Senator Maynard is a leading proponent.
Perry Bryant reported on the Climate Change committee. He reported that things are unsettled nationally. There were substantial climate change provisions in the original Build Back Better proposal but that never became law. Now there are ongoing talks in the Senate about some of those ideas but the prospects for those are unsure. There should be clarity by the end of August.
The Committee has prepared a Citizens Guide to Impacting Climate Change. It suggests steps a person could take. It can’t publish it now since action in Congress could make some of it outdated. Once it is time to publish it, the Committee is undecided how to distribute it. It could be an insert in the Voice. It could be printed in the Voice in serial form.
Hugh Rogers reported on Corridor H. For the last few years the controversy has been an abstraction. People assumed that questions of whether the route would split Davis and Thomas, cross Blackwater Canyon, etc. had either been decided or would not be decided any time soon. Now that there is interest in finishing Corridor H, etc. the questions become real. There is a great deal of local interest and enthusiasm, thanks in part to the efforts of Cory and Susan Rosenblum. Because there is so much local interest, West VIrginia Highlands Conservancy is no longer the only face of efforts to select a different route.
The Fall Review is scheduled for October 14-16 at North Bend State Park. We have speakers lined up and activities planned. People need to make reservations.
We discussed another facilitated meeting to discuss the future of the organization. We had such a meeting a few years ago. There was general support for the idea but no agreement on when and how. Perhaps on the Sunday of the Fall Review? Or would we be too tired and grouchy from all the fun we had had? A stand alone meeting? There was no decision.
Susan Rosenblum reported on the Rivers Committee. It has focused on the water impact of Corridor H construction. No matter what route is chosen, it will involve pristine watersheds. Along with Friends of the Cheat, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Trout Unlimited, and Corridor H Alternatives, we are doing water quality monitoring to document background conditions. We had a training to teach volunteers how to do the monitoring.