October and Mother Nature has started her annual coloring of the leaves. Conversations always drift to the annual question, how is the weather going to affect how brilliant the colors will be this year? No matter what, Mother Nature’s magnificent show will draw hundreds of thousands to West Virginia. Traveling to Dolly Sods, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley and the Mower Tract last week, I saw evidence that people are already coming.
September was another month of activities possibly having negative effects on the Highlands.
Release from the W.Va. House of Delegates:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, and Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, today announced they have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to consider opening up portions of the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas County to hunters and vehicular traffic during spring gobbler season.
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard recently met with officials representing the Forest Service’s Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger District to request the gates that close off about 45 miles of road in the district be opened during spring turkey hunting season.
The Forest Service closes the roads from March 1 to Aug. 31, in part to allow for the turkeys’ natural nesting season, but opens the gates for fall hunting seasons. Delegate Porterfield said constituents in his district brought the issue to his attention and asked for state help in convincing federal officials to open the area during the spring.
“Senator Maynard and I are in lock-step agreement that there is a lack of equality for our spring gobbler hunters with these strategic gates being locked, blocking off nearly 25 percent of the Monongahela National Forest in the White Sulphur District during this spring hunting season,” Delegate Porterfield said. “If these gates are unlocked during fall deer hunting season, it only makes sense to allow our hunters to hunt these good areas during spring gobbler season. We’re just asking for equality and non-discriminatory treatment for our turkey hunters.”
Senator Maynard said this land belongs to the American people, so they should have the right to use it year-round.
“I am a huge advocate for taxpayers having the right to access their state and federally owned land,” Senator Maynard said. “This access would not only give spring gobbler hunters the ability to arrive at a much closer location to their spot but would allow better access for older or physically challenged hunters that do not have their Class Q hunting license.”
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard also said opening these roads could provide an economic boost for the area during the spring.
“This could potentially open up tourism revenue in these good areas, following the winter ski season, so that our hunters and others could come in and enjoy our great West Virginia forests and wildlife,” Delegate Porterfield said.
Senator Maynard said opening the roads could also boost tourism with off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
“I am very passionate about motorized trail recreation,” Senator Maynard said. “This state is very lacking when it comes to off-highway vehicle trail access, and the more trails that officials leave gated and closed off means fewer trails that are accessible for off-highway vehicle use.”
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard are awaiting a decision from USDA officials, and encouraged hunters to contact the local offices of the Forest Service to encourage them to consider opening these areas next spring.
Some thoughts from the WVHC Board:
“I’d like to know what the rank-and-file DNR game folks think about this (the biologists and area managers, not the brass in Charleston). The main reason for the spring closure is to protect turkeys from too much hunting mortality and other disturbance during the spring nesting season, as well as the summer poult-rearing season. I don’t know the ground in that area well enough to have an informed opinion about whether opening the roads in the spring would have a negative impact on turkeys and other spring nesters.
I’m not sure what Cindy and other district staff will think about this proposal. But I’m pretty sure the engineering staff and watershed staff will be opposed to it. Opening roads during the spring wet season will cause a lot of damage, and the Forest Service already does not have anywhere near sufficient funding to maintain roads to standard.
Senator Maynard appears to be misinformed about the status of “off road” vehicles on the Forest. Simply opening the roads does not mean they are (legally) accessible to off-road vehicles. They would be open only to properly registered street-legal vehicles. Opening the roads and/or trails to off road vehicles would be a whole ‘nother can of worms. I don’t know how the new Forest Supervisor feels about that, but I suspect most of the people who work for him would be opposed to it.
What a bucket of worms that would open up. There’s already an issue with illegal ATVs tearing up meadows on Dolly Sods North. It would bring noise, scare wildlife, open backcountry areas to beer parties, pollute streams, tear up roads and trails, and scatter human waste through the forest.
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy will send a letter in opposition to this proposal.
North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says
For the first time, researchers have estimated the volume of total avian loss in the Western Hemisphere—and it’s not just threatened species that are declining. Many backyard favorites are also losing ground. See https://www.3billionbirds.org/
and the YouTube at https://abcbirds.org/donate/3-billion-birds/
October is the WVHC Fall Review. Please come and join us October 18th through the 20th. The Committee has assembled a great program and more information is included elsewhere.