September and 2020 are flying by at what certainly seems to be warp speed. So much has been accomplished and yet so much is still on our plate to keep us busy. Certainly the passage and signing into law of the Great American Outdoors Act and, as stated in last month’s Highlands Voice article , Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Rearview Mirror are two great accomplishments along with other issues reported in The Highlands Voice during the year are to be celebrated. Again, I want to thank our membership for your much-appreciated continued support, as we travel through this unpresented time with Covid-19. Support, which allows us to continue “Preserving West Virginia for future generations”.
Reading Senator Manchin’s weekly newsletter this week, I found the following that I believe is an especially important request from the Senator. West Virginians suffer every day from lack of adequate technology. This is but one example.
The sad fact is that many places in West Virginia simply do not have access to reliable broadband and the lack of access affects West Virginians every day. Back in 2015, the FCC released a coverage map that stated 99.9% of Americans had wireless coverage. I knew then what I know now: That is just plain wrong.
That’s why I’m asking all West Virginians to submit your internet speed-tests, so we can prove to the FCC that our broadband coverage is well below the stated coverage. So far, your efforts have helped the FCC acknowledge that our providers are overstating their coverage, but we must continue to show where and how widespread the lack of broadband coverage is in West Virginia.
Submit the Results of Your Speed Test Here
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and the Conservation Hub Program
Last month Lew Freeman, Executive Director, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance gave us some insight into what is next for the Alliance. This month Lew and Dan Shaffer, ABRA Geospatial Consultant are back to tell us about the exciting new program recently announced to the public. See the article The Conservation Hub: Strengthening Environmental Analysis and Improving Public Participation. I believe that you will agree that it is a program that is long overdue.
Monongahela National Forest Project Reviews
The WVHC Public Lands Committee continues to review current projects in the Mon and will continue to do so. Here are some we are watching.
Gauley Healthy Forest Restoration Project
The committee and other organizations are aware of a 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. https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57335&exp=overview
The Forest Service is planning on categorically excluding 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. On July 31, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliances on behalfof its 51 member groups filed a Freedom of Information Act Request. Lew Freeman is keeping the committee up to date on the progress of that request to include a recent meeting with representatives of the Forest Service representatives.
Panther Ridge Wildlife Enhancement Project
During the comment period, WVHC and other organizations requested copies of the Specialist Reports that had been completed as a part of the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Panther Ridge Wildlife Enhancement Project. We have now received those reports in an email that in part stated. “The ID Team and I worked very hard to complete the instructions that were identified by the Reviewing Official in order to address the concerns that you brought forward before the decision for this project was made. We took a hard look at your comments, as well as the instructions that were provided. Now that the NEPA process has been completed for this project, I wanted to send you copies of the final specialist reports. There are several files, so I will be sending you a total of 5 separate emails.” The committee is in the process of reviewing the reports.
West Virginia Wildlife Center
Scrolling through the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources website, I found this announcement.
Renovated State Wildlife Center is open with new health precautions
Like many businesses, the West Virginia State Wildlife Center was shut down during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. But the unplanned closing had a silver lining, according to Office Assistant Judy Channell.
“Our staff was able to catch up on many small projects on the grounds and in buildings,” she said. “We have a new concessionaire for the gift shop, and we made some minor repairs/changes in that building to assist them with their new layout. We also painted the kitchen in the snack bar. And we did some work on the fishing pond that included building a new bridge.”
If you find yourself looking for something to do one day, you might consider a visit to this wonderful facility with its wildlife exhibits. You can find additional information at https://wvdnr.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/renovated-state-wildlife-center-is-open-with-new-health-precautions/
This coronavirus situation is seen to be escalating again throughout the world. It has certainly turned our world upside down. We need to continue staying safe and 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 reports that many individuals are traveling to the mountains, wanting to get out and away from it all. Getting out continues to be recommended. Maybe we will see one another on the mountains.