Board Highlights

By John McFerrin

The Board of Directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy met in October.  Of course, we had most of the usual stuff—report from Membership Secretary (holding our own), report from Voice editor (wants articles), and report from Treasurer (nothing unusual).  We also had reports of great progress on the new Hiking Guide and the seed of a new trail initiative.

The great progress on the Hiking Guide was in the report by Hugh Rogers.  He reported that the 9th edition of the Hiking Guide is moving right along.  He has been editing; Kent Mason has given us pictures to use; Colleen Anderson is working on layout.

He had previously distributed the new cover photo to widespread ooos and aahs. He is still getting and incorporating suggestions but at some point will have to stop.  You have to stop editing sometime.  There will be color pictures throughout.

Printing in color will make it cost more to print.  Hugh has been looking at the prices of other guides and thinks that we could raise the price and still remain competitive.  At a price of $18.95, with the more expensive printing, we would make a little bit more per book than we are making now.  So we decided to set the price of the 9th Edition of the Hiking Guide at $18.95.

We hope and expect that we will be able to print the 9th edition by the end of 2017 although that is not certain.  The new edition will probably be available for sale in early 2018.

We also had an inconclusive discussion of the electronic version.  We are very nearly out of the CDs and don’t know whether to try to make more, look into a digital download, or what.  Beth Little is going to do some more investigation and we will take it up again.

The seed was an initiative on trail maintenance.  Most people used to have the idea that the Forest Service should maintain the trails in the National Forests.  Now it is becoming more and more clear that the Forest Service doesn’t have the resources to do it. If the trails area going to be maintained regular people are going to have to do some of it.

One thing that would make it easier would be a clearinghouse for trail maintenance opportunities.  There needs to be a way that people could report needs for trail maintenance, find out where maintenance is needed, or report that they had done some trail maintenance.

Adam Casseday had previously volunteered to interview District Ranger Jack Tribble.  We expect that the issue of volunteer trail maintenance to come up and Adam hopes to raise the question of some sort of clearinghouse.

There ensued a long discussion of how we might accomplish this.  There was talk of a website, a link, or some such thing.  We did not arrive at a plan but did express interest in the topic and an intention to revisit it as we have more information.  Right now this is not a real initiative but more a tiny acorn or a mustard seed.

Moving along, Larry Thomas noted a difficulty with the views from the Spruce Knob observation tower.  The trees surrounding the tower have grown so much that they are blocking the view.  It would be possible to get the view back by cutting the trees but we don’t want that.  The other possibility is raising the tower so that it is once again above the trees.  Larry is going to look into advocating for that option.

President Cindy noted that the 50th Anniversary celebration was “smashing.”  Thanks to all who worked on it, especially Cindy Rank.  Cindy R. then noted the contributions of Jackie and Marilyn as well as the work Dave Saville did in the managing details.

Larry Thomas announced that he is collecting ideas on how we might best use the money that we received from the bequest.  He will compile the information for future discussion.

In matters legislative, Frank Young was absent so we had no report.  Larry reported on the situation at the West Virginia Environmental Council.  It currently has no president and is reorganizing.  There is a facilitated meeting scheduled for the near future; it is hoped that this will help get it back on the path where it can be effective.  Raising money for lobbying is always difficult.  The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is a major funder.

Larry Thomas expressed some disappointment that the lobby team did not make any progress on siting regulations.  The proposal, which the Board has supported the last few years, does not oppose wind turbines.  It just seeks to make sure they are sited in the least objectionable locations and improve the process for making those decisions.  For the last three years the Highlands Conservancy has made this a priority but there has not been any progress at the legislature.

Probably the biggest impediment to successful lobbying of the WV legislature on environmentally related matters is the now decades long political shift of the membership of the legislature from, in the early 1990s, having legislators willing to elect somewhat “progressive” leadership and then support that leadership by approving some numbers of relatively environmentally sound public policy bills, to today’s pretty much legislative wall against green perspectives.

WV Environmental Council is in transition as it steers through the conservative Republican bluster and fog at the WV legislature.  For three legislative sessions in a row, our WVEC lobbyists have met a virtual wall of resistance to anything we see as positive.

After all this talk we needed a break so there was then had a brief respite for the celebration of Jean Rodman’s birthday.  We had brownies with a single candle (not her actual age; she is actually a few decades older).  We sang Happy Birthday and, in Jean’s absence, Buff Rodman blew out the candle.

Fun over; back to business.

Larry reported about a one hundred acres of old growth forest near Seneca Rocks.  We considered whether we should support an effort to protect that area.  Although there was no vote, it was the sense of the Board that we would support the effort.

Cindy Ellis updated us on the Columbia Gas Mountaineer XPress pipeline planned for the western edge of the state.  She had attended a Save the Greenbrier rally and celebration in Summers County which WVHC cohosted and reported that it was a great event.  She continues to attend meetings of the gas coalition.

Rick reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had given approval to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  (See story on p. 1). Appeals of both are likely.  The Forest Service is close to making a final decision approving the crossing of the Monongahela and Greenbrier National Forests.  That decision will probably be appealed as well.

In some respects FERC’s decision is faith based decision making.  If plans for how the builders will cross streams, scale slopes, etc. have been developed they have not been made public.  FERC’s decision is based on the assumption that plans will be developed and that they will be effective.

There is already a meeting scheduled to plan how citizens will go about monitoring construction.

Cindy Rank reported on the Antero-Clearwater plant.  It is supposed to receive waste water from gas drilling operations, treat it to levels suitable for reuse in fracing and possibly better, and dispose of the concentrated salts by-product in a very large salt land fill adjacent to the treatment facility.  There is ongoing legal action over the plant and salt disposal.

In matters of Renewable Energy Larry had emailed a lengthy report before the meeting and reviewed some of the highlights pertaining to solar, wind, nuclear, and the Clean Power Plan.

Hugh reported that construction is ongoing in the middle of the previously approved section.  There are still no final plans for construction around Blackwater, etc., a decision which will not be made for years.

The door prize was two bottles of Hawk Knob Hard Cider. Bill McNeel won.

The Setting

We had out meeting at The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia, located in Weston.  The museum has a mission to share the diverse and rich heritage of glass as a product and historical object as well as telling of the lives of glass workers, their families and communities, and of the tools and machines they used in glass houses.  In addition to letting us use their meeting room, we got to wander among beautiful displays and even take a guided tour after the meeting.  Many thanks to the Museum!