By Sarah Hinnant
This October, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy welcomed Friends of the Cheat (FOC) board member Sarah Hinnant as a delegate to the WVHC board. Hinnant has served as an active member on FOC’s board for six years. As a Preston and Tucker County local, her appointment serves as a bridge between the two organizations. Hinnant focuses her energy on environmental activism and recreation. She also works as a pediatric nurse anesthesiologist at WVU Medicine.
Since the formation of Friends of the Cheat in 1994, the organization’s primary focus has been addressing the severe acid mine drainage pollution issues in the lower reaches of the Cheat River watershed. Through coalition building, collaboration, and the implementation of acid mine drainage treatment systems, the Cheat River—named one of the country’s most endangered rivers in 1995—is once again alive with life. FOC works with state and federal agencies to coordinate reclamation and remediation efforts, academic institutions to facilitate research projects, and a variety of other stakeholders from the business and non-profit sector.
Collaboration between West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Friends of the Cheat has occurred for years, but with the dissolution of the Shavers Creek Coalition, organizational support from FOC was sought by WVHC.
Hinnant became an active board member by unanimous vote on Oct. 16 at the WVHC quarterly board meeting following the Conservancy’s annual Fall Review. Hinnant wasted no time acting as a two-way street between the organizations. She provided ideas for grant opportunities and membership campaigns to WVHC and portfolio development and membership outings to Friends of the Cheat.
“The WVHC Fall Review keynote speaker Professor James Van Nostrand educated me on our states poor Public Service Commission and strategies citizens can take to improve energy efficiency,” said Hinnant. “After the Fall Review, I am looking forward to installing a solar system that can service both our farm and sell extra energy back to the grid. Energy awareness benefits all consumers by keeping costs low while supporting environmentally friendly, reusable energy.”
WVHC and FOC, as well as the WV Rivers Coalition, are currently working to train volunteers to gather baseline data for streams that may be impacted by the development of Corridor H. Future collaboration will involve projects that restore, promote and protect the Cheat River watershed.