February continued the onslaught of freezing temperatures and strong winds (causing wind chills to drop below zero), along with snowstorm after snowstorm blanketing most of the highlands in a wintry wonderland. Unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. A flurry of activities also continued a flurry of activities as we continue our efforts to preserve and protect the highlands and monitor unresolved issues that we have been working on as are reported in this issue of the Highlands Voice.
In addition, the 2021 legislative session started February 10 and things have developed very confusing as predicted. It is very different this year with access to the Capitol building being limited, and the process for posting agendas and confirming public hearings remain confused and unclear.
The Conservancy is a member and supporter of West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) whose lobby team is busy monitoring legislation as it is introduced, reaching out to legislators, and working with coalition partners. See the article by Frank Young on page 5 of the February Voice for a description of the activities of WVEC. Already they have identified what is good and, of course, bad legislation for our fragile environment and those that make West Virginia their home.
Water Quality Standards
- HB 2389: Authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate a legislative rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards
- SB 137: DEP rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards
Economic Development and Renewable Energy
- HB 2588: Creating the WV Energy Efficiency Jobs Creation Act
- SB 30: Permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative energy generating facilities.
Altering the Above Ground Storage Tank Act
- HB 2598: Exempts certain oil and gas storage tanks from the Above ground Storage Tank Act
Fully Funding the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas
- HB 2725: Relating to funding for the DEP Office of Oil and Gas
State Buildings Regarding Energy Efficiency
- HB 2667: Create a cost saving program for state buildings regarding energy efficiency.
You can subscribe to get action alerts and legislative updates at https://wvecouncil.org/.
WVHC Public Lands Committee
The Public Lands Committee continues to be busy reviewing proposed projects in the Monongahela National Forest and submitting comments and suggestions as determined necessary. In addition, they are engaged in a new initiative to undertake a new program to help guide and engage the public in the management of the popular Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.
Dolly Sods, while always a popular tourist destination, has become a mecca for backpackers, photographers and other outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Its popularity has exploded in recent years, especially with the popularity of social media. Numerous management issues ranging from overcrowding, resource damage, trail conditions and possible reintroduction of trout into Red Creek would all be better resolved with an active constituency of volunteers and public engagement. We foresee that having an established constituency will be crucial to our advocacy on that issue. It is a public lands management issue that is crying out for public engagement.
The program would organize volunteers, lovers, and users of the area and give them an outlet for organizing trail work outings, backpack excursions, campsite rehabilitation, wilderness and leave no traceeducation, and engage management on a number of issues of concern. It is an effort that is needed and sought after, and the Highlands Conservancy is the natural organization to provide the leadership to make it happen.
From day one, Dolly Sods has been a huge part of the WVHC heritage. It was WVHC who helped protect it, the Eastern Wilderness Act in 1975, and the Wild Monongahela Act in 2009. The Highlands Conservancy was instrumental in accomplishing the protection.
The Public Lands Committee is developing potential WVHC program activities which include:
●Wilderness stewards – Leave No Trace education, monitor and report backcountry conditions
●Trail and campsite maintenance/rehabilitation
●·Monitor/replenish trailhead sign-in boxes
●Assist with backcountry campsite inventory
●Assistance with traffic monitoring/counting
The success of this program will depend on a lot of volunteers.
WVHC Futures Committee
The Board of Directors approved hiring a full time Program Director at the January meeting and the futures committee has been working on the job description and other issues involved in hiring an employee. The job post is included in this months Voice and will be distributed to other environmental organizations and social media platforms to get as wide a distribution as possible. If you know anyone that might be interested in the position, please forward the information to them.
I want to thank all of the committees for their hard work and hope that our members and supporters continue to stay safe during this unusual time.