Thoughts from our president

Another incredibly challenging year has come to an end. Looking back, I have been thinking, where did it go, seems to have just zoomed by. Unfortunately, the Covid19 pandemic, now with even another variant, continues its successful quest to radically change the way we live our lives. 

The Conservancy’s many accomplishments, as well as many informative articles, have been recounted in each month’s issue of The Highlands Voice. I hope that you have had the opportunity to read each monthly issue from front to back. It is evident that we did not allow the pandemic to slow us down in our mission to work for the conservation, appreciation, and ecologic integrity of the natural mountain landscape of West Virginia. 

We realize that the Conservancy’s success has been made possible by the 54+ years of continued support from our loyal members and supporters, and for that we are most appreciative. Thanks to that wonderful support, we have been able to continue the long-successful programs such as holding industry responsible by restraining out-of-control mountaintop coal mining, Marcellus Shale drilling, mega gas Pipelines and working to reduce their impacts, protection of our public lands and Wilderness Areas, restoring the red spruce eco-system, protecting clean water, review and reporting on issues related to climate change and engaging State and Federal lawmakers. 

That continued support also allows us to tackle new problems as they arise such as the conditions that have surfaced with the Dolly Sods Wilderness and the proposed use of Off-Road Vehicles on West Virginia public lands. The list continues to grow and grow.

While the issues might be different from year to year, our methods remain fundamental.  With member and supporter support, we are able to expose problems, educate members, the public, and policy makers, research better alternatives, and use our collective Voice. Our historic record of successes, and our vision for the future, reinforce our efforts on behalf of what we all have grown to love, respect and appreciate.

West Virginia 2021 Legislative Session Begins January 18, 2022 

We are fast approaching the 2022 legislative session. West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) has been in preparation mode reviewing the pre legislative session interims and working with coalition partners. Starting January 21, WVEC will send out “Green Legislative Updates” each Friday to keep everyone informed. They also expect to send along more frequent action alerts on issues requiring immediate action. Calling and emailing your legislators concerning important issues will be the best way to reach them this session.

There is a lot to tackle this year. Topping the list from member groups received as responses to a member survey taken last fall were water quality, climate change, and clean elections (changing the political rules that favor special interests and giving regular West Virginians an equal voice in our government).

Specifically, the focus will be on the following priorities:

  • Climate Change
  • Clean water including a strong water quality standards rule
  • Clean Elections and protecting our voting rights
  • Public Lands threatened with Off-Road vehicle use
  • Coal Community/Just Transition for West Virginia communities
  • Adequate funding for inspectors for the Office of Oil and Gas of the DEP

Every year as legislation is introduced, there are issues that arise which must be addressed.  A great example was the “Logging in State Parks” legislation that was introduced four years ago. With a monumental effort, the coalition was able to convince the legislators that that was a terrible idea and the legislation stopped. I am hearing that this year it will be the allowance of motorized vehicles in certain state-owned public lands, and issue that the Conservancy has always opposed. 

Additionally, WVEC expects to use a good deal of its resources to educate legislators, and to provide fact sheets and grassroots outreach on any potentially harmful legislation, as well as proactive bills.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is a member and supporter of WVEC.

New Challenges

Thousands of individuals again flocked to our highlands during 2021 as has been the experience with all public lands throughout the country, demonstrating the importance of our continued efforts to continue the fight and to win the war against those who needlessly want to destroy the environment and destroy the natural, scenic and historic areas within the West Virginia highlands.

It is critically important that we continue to fight to preserve and protect the highlands for future generations, focusing on new and exciting opportunities. In addition, we must continue to monitor unresolved issues that we have been working on and to continue reporting on our progress in The Highlands Voicethroughout the coming year.

Many thanks to the members of our Board of Directors and of the various committees, who despite the issues caused by the pandemic, have remained diligent in their efforts to assure our continued fulfillment of the Conservancy’s mission during 2021. 

As we move into the new year, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous 2022. I am also hoping that we can get a handle on the pandemic and return to as normal lives as possible.