Thoughts from our president

In addition to providing an abundance of rain, May has produced a flurry of information that will be of interest to West Virginia Highlands Conservancy members. Information includes:


Monitoring the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Rick Webb, WVHC Board Member and Committee Chair of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiativeof the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has provided the following resource information. WVHC is a member of ABRA.

The Pipeline CSI, a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), has made the following online resources available to citizens who are contending with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other major pipelines in the central Appalachian region:

1)Pipeline Incident Report form

An online submission form is available for citizen reports concerning stream impacts and noncompliance with environmental requirements for pipeline construction. The reporting form has been developed as a collaborative effort involving multiple organizations, and it can be used for submission of reports for different pipeline projects. Form submissions will be monitored by the Pipeline CSI, Mountain Valley Watch, Trout Unlimited, and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Each organization will address specific pipelines and will follow its own protocol for responding to incident reports, including follow-up investigation and submission of complaints to the regulatory agencies.

The Pipeline Incident Report form is available at Other reporting methods provided by ABRA, including a hotline and a dedicated email address, as well as guidance for citizen observers, are also provided. Additional information and methods for reporting are provided by the other collaborating organizations.

2) Rules for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Multiple agencies have been involved in the review and issuance of permits and approvals for the ACP.  See access to regulatory agency websites and to environmental regulations and guidelines that apply to pipeline construction in general.  Access is also provided to ACP-specific project plans and to environmental-review and approval documents. In addition, project-specific requests for variances and exemptions, as well as inspection and enforcement documents, will be provided.

3) CSI Mapping System

The CSI Mapping System is an online interactive map developed to support citizen oversight of the construction phase of the ACP. The mapping system includes 200 miles of the western mountainous section of the ACP. The mapping system provides the location of the ACP construction corridor and access roads, information concerning environmental risks and sensitivities, construction plans (“alignment sheets”), and water monitoring stations. The mapping system includes a layer that indicates the extent of tree felling, and thus, the extent of potential construction in the summer of 2018. The mapping system will also provide information related to CSI Incident Reports.


Mapping system users canselect from different base maps, determine the layers that are displayed, access information about map features, and save PDF versions of their maps.

The CSI Mapping System is currently set to display locations of stream and wetlands crossings considered by the US Army Corps of Engineers prior to its issuance of the general Nationwide Permit 12. As indicated in the attached screen shot, information concerning the individual crossings, including identifiers (FeatID), can be accessed via popup windows. Although the Virginia DEQ is accepting comments on the adequacy of the NWP12 for protecting state waters in lieu of individual state review, the DEQ website that provides water body crossing information is not working. The CSI Mapping System provides access to the missing information. For more on this issue, see Calendar / Events at


Protecting Migratory Birds

Does it or doesn’t it?The courts will now decide if theMigratory Bird Treaty Actextends to incidental take from industrial activities. Press release.


Lawsuits Seek to Restore Protections for Migratory Birds

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2018) A coalition of national environmental groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, today filed litigation, National Audubon Society v. Department of the Interior, in the Southern District of New York challenging the current Administration’s move to eliminate longstanding protections for waterfowl, raptors, andsongbirds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

In a legal opinion issued December 2017, the Administration abruptly reversed decades of government policy and practice — by both Democratic and Republican administrations — on the implementation and enforcement of the MBTA.

The Act’s prohibition on the killing or “taking” of migratory birds has long been understood to extend to incidental take from industrial activities — meaning unintentional but predictable and avoidable killing. Under the Administration’s revised interpretation, the MBTA’s protections will apply only to activities that purposefully kill birds. Any “incidental” take — no matter how inevitable or devastating the impact on birds — is now immune from enforcement under the law.

The risk of liability under the MBTA has long provided the oil and gas industry, wind energy development companies, and power transmission line operators with an incentive to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize bird deaths. For example, in an effort to protect migratory birds and bats and avoid potential MBTA liability, the wind industry, conservation groups, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked to develop comprehensive guidelines aimed to ensure best practices for siting and developing wind farms. The Administration’s new policy eliminates this incentive for industries and individuals to minimize and mitigate foreseeable impacts of their activities on migratory birds, putting already-declining populations of our nation’s songbirds and other migratory birds at risk.

The MBTA also protects birds from fossil fuel development. Oil pits kill hundreds of thousands of birds— if incidental take liability is eliminated, industry need no longer take measures to protect birds from these hazards. In addition, when the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled more than 210 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1 million birds were killed in the four years following the blowout.BP paid $100 million in fines under the MBTA that supported wetland and migratory bird conservation. The new interpretation would bar the federal government from seeking such mitigation under the MBTA for devastating oil spills in the future.

(The American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and National Audubon Society are being represented in the litigation by the public-interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP.)

The Conclusion in the legal opinion.


The text, history, and purpose of the MBTA demonstrate that it is a law limited in relevant part to affirmative and purposeful actions, such as hunting and poaching, that reduce migratory birds and their nests and eggs, by killing or capturing, to human control. Even assuming that the text could be subject to multiple interpretations, cout1s and agencies are to avoid interpreting ambiguous laws in ways that raise grave Constitutional doubts if alternative interpretations are available. Interpreting the MBTA to criminalize incidental takings raises serious due process concerns and is contrary to the fundamental principle that ambiguity in criminal statutes must be resolved in favor of defendants. Based upon the text, history, and purpose of the MBT A, and consistent with decisions in the Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth circuits, there is an alternative interpretation that avoids these concerns. Thus, based on the foregoing, we conclude that the MBTA’s prohibition on pursuing, hunting, taking, capturing, killing, or attempting to do the same applies only applies only to direct and affirmative purposeful actions that reduce migratory birds, their eggs, or their nests, by killing or capturing, to human control.


Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Shelley Moore Capito are co-sponsoring bills to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF has provided funding for state and local parks for facilities and infrastructure upgrades as well as providing funding for national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges to buy land within their authorized boundaries. Please take the time to call both and thank them for supporting the legislation which has been so important to our West Virginia Highlands. Manchin 202-224-3954 Capito 202-224-6472


Doubling the Size of Bear Rocks Preserve at Dolly Sods


From the Charleston Gazette Mail article.

Nearly 2 square miles of land along the Allegheny Front, the eastern rim of the Dolly Sods plateau in Grant County, has been donated to The Nature Conservancy of West Virginia to add to the conservancy’s existing, 477-acre Bear Rocks Preserve.

The 1,143-acre gift was made possible through donations from the Ann C. and Robert O. Orders Jr. Family Foundation and Maryland resident Dan Montgomery.

“For decades, we have worked with partners and supporters to protect the incredibly important Canaan Valley-Dolly Sods landscape as a keystone of the Central Appalachians,” Thomas Minney, state director of the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, said in a news release.

“The Allegheny Front property is a biologically important gem and plays an immense role in West Virginia’s ability to support and promote tourism, provide drinking water and clean air to the Eastern United States and stand as a resilient stronghold for people and wildlife,” Minney said.


Lots of good and potentially concerning information comes out every day.