Thoughts from our president

October, the month that keeps Mother Nature busy with her paint brush and pallet as she as she goes to work using scarlet, purple, orange, yellow and browns to create the spectacular show of the fall foliage, one of the tourist attractions which brings so many visitors to the highlands of West Virginia. Visitors are in for a terrific show when the leaves reach their peak toward the end of October.

2021 WVHC Fall Review, Annual Membership Meeting and Quarterly Board Meeting 

The Fall Review Committee has been working very hard putting together a great agenda for this year’s fall review. Information is included in this Highlands Voice. Please make your plans now to attend.

WVHC committees were again busy during September. A few highlights follow:

Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards Project

WVHC is very pleased with the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards program as we are now in the very busy fall season, where visitation to our highlands will skyrocket and the already overcrowding at Dolly Sods is projected to accelerate. I want to personally thank all of the volunteers who have volunteered their time at the trailheads and for participating in the solitude monitoring surveys. See the article in this month’s Highlands Voice for an update of the project.

Monongahela National Forest

The WVHC Public Lands Committee continues its review of proposed projects in the Monongahela National Forest and providing comments on issues of concern.

Greenbrier Southeast Project

This project seeks to improve forest stand health and composition to improve future wildlife habitat and to provide for future commercial timber sales and economic projects. The project area is located in the Greenbriar Ranger District in Pocahontas County, WV, approximately 2 miles east of Bartow, WV.

We will be discussing this list of questions and concerns with Forest Service representatives

1.    Cumulative impacts to candy darter habitat.
2.    Existing degradation of aquatic habitat and causes.
3.    Accounting for environmental sensitivities and risk in project design.
4.    Old and new road and skid trail impacts.
5.    Sufficiency of aquatic effects monitoring.
6.    Climate change and project implications for ecosystem resiliency and carbon storage.
7.    Access to GIS and other data used in project planning.

One of our initiatives is to determine and assess Forest Service policy and practice with respect to candy darter habitat and response to Endangered Species Act listing. 

There are many proposed actions that will begin or are currently undergoing environmental analysis and documentation. They are documented in the Forest Service Schedule of Proposed Actions for the Monongahela National Forest (SOPA) USDA Forest Service – SOPA – Monongahela National Forest (, which are published quarterly. It is impossible for the WVHC public lands committee to review all proposed actions. If you see something that you believe we should be following, please let us know.

Many individuals visiting the Mon. are not fully aware that there are general forest rules to be followed. They can be found at Monongahela National Forest – Home ( These are common sense rules and if followed add to everyone’s enjoyment of this national treasurer.

Off Road Vehicles Are a Threat to Our Public Lands in West Virginia

Persistent efforts continue to promote off road vehicle use on our public lands, Federal and state, in West Virginia.  For obvious reasons, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy strongly opposes allowing this activity on our public lands. Some reasons include:

● Our public lands are places of rest, solitude, peacefulness, and refuge.  They are not the place for the noise and commotion that come with ORVs/ATVs. The noise is far too intrusive.

● They promote one use of public lands while destroying all the other values that our public lands have. They just do not fit or belong on our public lands.

● Protective rules that have long been established for our public lands would be substantially relaxed with the allowance of ORVs/ATVs on those public lands.

●There are numerous examples (videos and photos) of the destructive impacts where off road vehicle recreation is currently allowed on public lands and private lands. 

●There are numerous examples of the cost for constant repair and restoration where OHVs have been used.

●There is a demonstrated need for constant monitoring/policing of the activities where OHVs are used and who would pay the costs of such monitoring/policing.   

●There are numerous examples of the types of risks that are involved, accidents, deaths etc. Sample reports and photos are widely available.

Off road vehicles are defined as any civilian off-highway vehicle, including motorcycles, motorized dirt bikes, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, dune buggies, 4-wheel-drive jeeps, sport-utility vehicles, and any other civilian vehicles capable of off-road, terrestrial travel (including utility vehicles [UTVs] and ATVs with more than 4 wheels).

The Public Lands Committee is busy researching the effects of allowing the use of off road vehicles on public lands and is preparing an Allegheny-Blur Ridges Alliance Conservation Hub project to support the WVHC position on permitting off road vehicle use on West Virginia public lands. The research includes the negative effects they create including impacts to soils, watersheds, vegetation, wildlife and their habitats, water quality, air quality and the creation of socioeconomic implications.  Those impacts accrue very quickly and go way beyond interfering with a peaceful atmosphere. That’s why West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other environmental organizations think that it is a bad idea to consider permitting them anywhere on our public lands. 

Please get out and enjoy the Mother Nature’s transition of the mountains during October. Perhaps our paths will cross somewhere along the way.