April has passed with over a full year of dealing with the restrictions associated with COVID-19, even though many have now received the vaccine. Although the coronavirus has many of us still hunkered down, Mother Nature is on the move. Spring has arrived in our mountains. In the valleys, trees are greening with this year’s leaves while higher in the mountains the trees are still the stately statues of winter waiting for it to get a little warmer. The birds have returned and are busy with their nesting rituals. Mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter have reappeared and are scurrying about filling long empty stomachs. Spring flowers and fruit trees are blooming.
All of this activity again reminds me of one of my favorite poems “Spring” by Susan Filson.
Spring appears in whispers
and hushed tones
as the bellowing winter
Drowsy flowers come to
waking from their sleep-
with heads turned upward towards
the Maestro called sun-
I watch with Anticipation
As the concert begins.
The latter part of May will also bring another visitor. Buried — alive — for 17 years, the Brood X, one of the world’s largest swarms of giant fly-like bugs called cicadas, is ready to rise. When the ground warms to 64 degrees, they’ll stop gnawing on tree roots and start scratching toward the surface by the hundreds of billions. As they emerge, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, ants, raccoons, snakes, frogs and possums will gorge themselves for about a week until they collapse into food comas. See more information on Brood X at:
United States Forest Service
During April, the Service publish a final rule designating critical habitat for the candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) in Virginia and West Virginia.
The candy darter is a small, freshwater fish endemic to the upper Kanawha River basin, which is synonymous with the Gauley and greater New River watershed. The Service has designated 368 miles of occupied streams in five watersheds as critical habitat for the species. While the candy darter historically occurred in more streams, it currently occurs within a smaller number of streams within the Upper Gauley, Greenbrier, Lower Gauley, Upper New, and Middle New watersheds. The proposed critical habitat rule was open for comment in 2018, but comments did not lead to any changes to the designation.
Although streams designated as critical habitat are considered state waters, adjacent land is owned by a combination of federal, state, and private interests. The critical habitat designation does not affect landowner activities that do not involve federal funding or do not require federal permits. It does not allow the government or the public access to private lands, nor does it require non-federal landowners to restore habitat or recover species.
The current distribution of the candy darter persists in half of its historical range. Major threats include hybridization with the variegate darter (Etheostoma variatum), water quality, and removal of high-quality habitat. We anticipate that recovery will require continued protection of existing populations and habitat. The Service is collaborating with our partners to develop science-based conservation plans that consider genetic and biological factors, which will best inform how to establish additional populations within the historical range.
The rule is effective on Friday, May 7, 2021. A link to the final critical habitat rule
See the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Conservation Hub project for information about for the Candy Darter at: https://hub-dpmc-gis.opendata.arcgis.com/pages/the-candy-darter. West Virginia Highlands Conservancy supports ABRA and the Conservation Hub. See also the article concerning the designation in this month’s Voice.
Off Road Vehicle And All Terrain Vehicle Use On Public Lands
Once again, legislators are active in promoting ORV/ATV recreation on public lands in West Virginia and introduced 8 bills and 2 resolutions during the recently completed session that were related to that end. The goal is to open the national forests, wildlife management areas and sections of state parks and forests to off road recreation. An interim study resolution was the result of the effort.
The West Virginia Jeep Club and West Virginia Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (WVOHVC) are the main groups behind this effort. The WVOHVC is new and very well organized with thousands of members and representatives assigned to each Senatorial District.
WVHC has long opposed ORV/ATV recreation on public lands in West Virginia and the board approved sending a request to the ABRA Conservation Hub Advisory Committee to establish a project concerning ORV/ATV recreation on our public lands. That request along with a detailed outline of the content has been sent.
WVHC Public Lands Committee
Members of the committee continue to meet with representatives of the U. S. Forest Service to discuss the Dolly Sods program which 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 trace education. See the article in this month’s The Highlands Voice, p. 5.
The target for initiating the program is Memorial Day.
West Virginia Legislature Session
The 2021 legislative session has ended with some important successes and a few disappointments. See the article in this month’s Voice with a complete wrap up of the session.
The WVHC board wants to thank all of our members and supporters for their continued support as well as the committees for their hard work and hope that all continue to stay safe as this unusual time continues.