By John McFerrin
The October, 2018, gathering of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy featured two meetings. The first was the Annual Meeting, held once a year to elect officers and directors and conduct any other business that may come before the membership.
The election of officers featured all the same drama and excitement that we used to have when Robert C. Byrd ran for re-election: all current officers were elected for another term. The only change in the officer corps would be Marilyn Shoenfeld’s moving from Vice-President for Federal Affairs to Senior Vice-President.
We also re-elected George Beetham, Jackie Burns, Randy Kesling, and Kent Karriker. Although Kent Karriker was re-elected, he is still semi-new. He was recently appointed to fill an unexpired term. New-new Patricia Goodrum of Charleston was elected to replace the retiring Bill McNeel. We noted that this would be the end of Mr. McNeel’s service on the Board (a service that began approximately forever ago) and expressed appreciation for his service.
The membership meeting was followed by the quarterly Board meeting. There we had the usual stuff. We also, however, had progress reports on how the new Hiking Guide is going, plans for the upcoming legislative session, and some updates on ongoing efforts.
Beth Little reported that the Hiking Guide is selling well and that she has received great feedback from those who purchased it. But progress on a digital version has stopped, in part because we’re over budget. Beth repeated our debt to the late Jim Solley for his work on CD versions of the 7th and 8th editions. There are some technical problems with Amazon (picture still shows old edition) but we are working to whip Amazon into shape.
While she was at it, Beth reported that membership was up slightly in the third quarter.
In matters legislative, Frank reported that the West Virginia Environmental Council had met the day before, a conflict with our weekend meeting. Because we help support the legislative efforts of the Environmental Council, it did not want to finalize legislative priorities without us.
Frank Young reported that the preliminary priority-setting tracked pretty well with our recommendations:
(1) Encouraging renewable energy, a bill written by Energy Efficient WV would allow “power purchase agreements” between private parties, such as landlords selling to tenants power generated by rooftop solar collectors. (These agreements are different from “green tags” that track the sources of power provided by existing utilities.)
(2) Water protection measures that would update state water quality standards to EPA-recommended health standards.
(3) Public lands protections, including a ban on logging in state parks as per the original understanding when they were established.
On the odds of achieving these goals, Frank said #1 depended on the election. If Republicans continue in control, it will be a multi-year effort. And every session, we wind up spending most of our effort on defense against bad bills. He added that last year, Rivers Coalition led the effort to stop logging in state parks. This year, their staff has been reduced by three, and they will need more help from the Highlands Conservancy.
In July, West Virginia Environmental Council rehired Karan Ireland to lobby at interims and to coordinate the lobby team at the regular session.
Beth will handle the annual fund appeal with editing assistance from Cindy Rank and Hugh. We should focus on our support for Pipeline CSI (seeking to reimburse our investment) and our successes in court. Beth will aim at getting the appeal out by Thanksgiving. Larry has been writing more thank-yous recently for large donations ($200+). He noted the importance of the Voice to members – often mentioned by donors.
The Board also talked about a replacement for Membership Secretary Beth Little. The core of her duties has always been managing our membership list (sending out renewal notices, communicating with members, etc.). In recent years she has assumed responsibility for managing our on-line store (Hiking Guides, t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, etc.) There was long discussion of whether we should split the duties into two jobs (the store and the rest, e.g., member communication, board meeting attendance). Beth and Jim Solley used to split it that way. There was also discussion of whether we should add outreach to the job description. After much discussion, we decided to keep the job as it is, not splitting it among two people. We have a committee working on this.
Treasurer Bob Marshall presented the treasurer’s report, which had a short third quarter because we were meeting earlier in October than usual. Our accountant, Susan Graves, did not have the bank statements for September. Bob did not expect any surprises.
Kent Karriker agreed to serve as chair of our public landscommittee, joined by Marilyn, Frank, Larry, and Hugh. Monongahela Forest Supervisor Clyde Thompson will retire in January, and his interim successor, at least, will be his deputy, Ray Torres. Kent anticipated a good relationship and suggested reaching out to him. Kent talked a little about the proposed Spruce Grouse Area Management Plan; he and Larry are working on our final comments to the Forest Service.
We talked about Fall Reviews in 2018 and 2019. Although attendance this year by our members was disappointing, the experience of our board and officers could not have been better. Field trips – to Sinks of Gandy, Spruce Knob, and spruce restoration–all received rave reviews, as did he informal field trip to Joe Morris’s observatory on the west ridge.
For 2019, Jackie, Jim, Marilyn, and Larry will begin planning right away.
Rick Webb had done a slide show on Saturday night, highlighting the range of the information on the Pipeline CSI web site. Rick also shared the Incident Report Form for a few board members who had “seen something.” Recalling our decision at the last meeting to invest $75,000 in this project, Rick shared how the first installment is being used. The largest part (almost half) goes to a West Virginia field coordinator (her salary is split with Rivers Coalition) with the rest going to water monitoring equipment, legal expenses, GIS and spatial analysis, the Pipeline Air Force, and travel.