By John McFerrin
The Board of Directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy met on Earth Day, 2023 (aka April 22). It was some of the same old, same old with a strong dash of the new.
We had some new board members: Ashton Burdine. Many may know Ashton from his work with the West Virginia Land Trust. He will be representing the Brooks Bird Club, occupying the seat previously occupied by Cindy Ellis and, in the old days, Mary Moore Riefienberger (two big pairs of shoes to fill). Fortunately, Cindy Ellis will not be leaving us. President Larry Thomas has appointed her to an at-large Board position.
The second new board member is Andrew Young. (Not THE Andrew Young; if you don’t get the reference, go ask an old person). He is a law student at George Washington University Law School specializing in environmental, natural resource, and land use law. He has been active in the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance for several years. He was not present at the meeting, but President Larry Thomas announced his intention to appoint him.
The other dash of the new was our new merch. We got our first look at a new line of Hydro Flasks (like water bottles only made of metal, insulated and indestructible), tumblers, and t-shirts, all with our name and logo. They will be available by ordering through the Voice and our online store. Look for announcements on our social media to see the new items and sign-up to receive our emails!
Membership and Fulfillment Secretary Cristyn (Crys) Bauer presented a report on our membership and the inventory in the store. It appears that the membership is trending upward.
We had a brief and inconclusive discussion of the possibility of making The Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, Making a Difference (the brochure on what people can do to reduce their impact on the climate), or both available as PDFs on the website. We weren’t sure if that is something people would want, whether it would cut into guide sales, etc. We did what we do when we can’t figure something out: round up some smart people to figure this out for us. In this case, we rounded up Buff, Hugh, Marilyn and Cory.
Since Communications Director Olivia Miller is working remotely from Idaho (it’s the 21st century, after all), she sent a written report. She reported that the engagements on our social media pages continue to grow. The Voice still comes out every month; we are printing pictures in color, which have been well received. She is going to work on spiffing up the website.
In another piece of news, Jackie Burns and Sarah Hinnant will start doing a kids’ page for the Voice. Although a 42-inch pipe that has not yet gone into the ground has some potential as an adventure, it is a documented fact that children do not like to read about pipelines and the Clean Water Act, the route for Corridor H, etc. A kids’ page would give us something in the Voice for children.
Program Director Cory Chase reported on what he has been doing. It is a lot. He went to Environmental Day at the Legislature, planned outings, discussed upcoming events with the Central Appalachian Red Spruce Initiative, worked on the effort to route Corridor H to the north—the route that avoids splitting Davis and Thomas—and much more.
Luanne McGovern reported on legislative matters. She talked about how many bills were introduced, how many passed, our legislative priorities, etc. She couldn’t say enough good things about the lobbyists from the Environmental Council that we worked with and our partner, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. To learn the details, see her story in the April issue of the Voice.
Rick Webb reported on public lands. Much of his work has been with Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and its conservation hub. It continues to be the go-to place for data on Corridor H, Off-Road Vehicles on public lands, and many other issues. Most of the issues are of interest to the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
He also reported on three Forest Service projects: Greenbrier Southeast Project, Upper Cheat River Project, and the South Fork of the Cherry River.
Susan Rosenblum reported on the activities of the Rivers Committee. The only issue it has the time to work on is Corridor H and they are going at it gangbusters. The committee is cooperating with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and the Friends of Cheat to train and organize citizen scientists to sample streams that would be along the route of Corridor H.
Hugh Rogers reported on Corridor H. Much of what he could say has been in the Voice. The National Environmental Policy Review Act (NEPA) process that was done years ago is stale. We want the Department of Highways to go through the NEPA process again and seriously consider routes other than the one they are stubbornly enthusiastic about. Hugh is confident that nobody would pick this one if other routes were fairly considered.
Now comes the same old same old. Cindy Rank reported on the long, slow slog that we continue to be involved in, trying to ensure compliance with mining laws. There is nothing new or exciting to report, just that we are keeping on keeping on. Inch by inch the longest march can be won.
Dave Johnston reported on the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards. They are doing great things. This year they will once again be doing the education and the monitoring just like last year. They are adding trail maintenance. The Forest Service plans to address some problems with improperly located or heavily impacted camp sites that last year’s inventory identified.
Jackie Burns reported on the Fall Review, now scheduled for October 13-15 at Canaan Valley. The theme is water. We already have speakers lined up to talk about water regulations in our state, acid mine drainage, the candy darter and sedimentation, and possibly one on forest hydrology. They are still looking for speakers to talk about PFAS chemicals and small-town water issues. We will invite other groups to table at the event.
Finally, there was the food. Susan Rosenblum had organized potluck meals. There was plenty of food, so we all went away fat and happy.