Thoughts from our president

July has been an exciting month for the West Virginia highlands and various projects that WVHC has been working on for so long. As we say on our web page we are “Preserving West Virginia for future generations”. Thanks to the continued support of our membership we are able to continue to promote, encourage and work for the conservation, appreciation, and ecologic integrity of the natural mountain landscape of West Virginia continually working for the cultural, social, educational, physical health, spiritual and economic benefit of present and future generations of residents and visitors alike.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)

In a very surprising joint statement, on July 5, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced that they had decided not to proceed with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Since 2014, WVHC has been a member and funder of “The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), a coalition of over 50 organizations in West Virginia and Virginia that was formed to oppose the ACP. From the start, ABRA has contended that the ACP was not needed to meet the future energy needs of their customers, stating that it presented threats to the environment and the safety and prosperity of the communities through which it would have been built, therefore not justifying the project. 

As stated above the July Voice article from the Southern Environmental Law Center “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. See the article “ACP in the Rearview Mirror and the Road Ahead” By Lewis Freeman, Executive Director of ABRA in which he explains reasons for the decision and what is required in the future. I predict there is a long road ahead before all of the required restoration is completed and the ACP finally goes away.

Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Great American Outdoors Act

Headlines from a July 22 National Parks Conservation Association blog stated “A Conservationist’s Dream: Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act“ The House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that authorizes billions in funding for the much needed deferred maintenance backlog plaguing our nation’s public lands and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bill fulfills a 1964 bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and provides recreation opportunities to all Americans. The bill has now been sent to the White House where President Trump, who tweeted his support and called on Congress to pass the bill, is expected to sign the bill into law.

As reported in prior Highlands Voice articles, WVHC, as a part of the West Virginians for Public Lands (WVPL) has been working with other groups, since long before the fund was allowed to expire on September 30, 2019, to convince Congress to permanently authorize and permanently fund LWCF. It is wonderful to see that the hard work come to fruition.

Bluestone Coal Company and its Red Fox Mine in McDowell County

July 27, the federal district court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that the Justice Group’s Red Fox coal mine was liable for more than 3,000 Clean Water Act violations.

This has been another long-fought battle by WVHC and partners with a sought-after conclusion. Certainly not all of them end that way. See the article “Bluestone Coal sings the blues” by Cindy Rank, Board Member and Chairman of the Extractive Industries Committee explaining the long process, the complaint and where it goes from here.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and the Conservation Hub Program

In last months “Voice”, I talked about ABRA’s Construction Surveillance Initiative and Conservation Hub Programs. Lew’s article talks about the future plans for ABRA with respect to the ACP, the MVP and the developing Conservation Hub Program. Aggressive teamwork, from the beginning, has paid off and will continue to do so long into the future of protecting our highlands.

Monongahela National Forest Project Reviews

The WVHC Public Lands Committee continues to review current projects in the Mon and will continue to do so. As reported last month, the committee and other organizations are aware of another project called the Gauley Healthy Forest Restoration Project. The project is adjacent to, and east of Richwood and extends eastward to the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center.

            The Forest Service is planning to categorically exclude this project from the usual NEPA document, which means no public comment, so little or no information has been forthcoming about the project. The committee and other organizations are frustrated, after numerous attempts failed attempts to get information to review about the project. They will continue the efforts. 

Again, I want to say to everyone please stay safe during this coronavirus situation which seems to be escalating. In the past months, the coronavirus has turned our world into a most unusual place. We really need to follow the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local health and other safety guidance. I continue to see many individuals traveling to the mountains. I assume they want to get out and away from it all, as is now being recommended. Maybe I will see you on the mountains.