Sunday, March 20 was the first day of spring, but Old Man Winter wasn’t quite ready to leave the highlands. Since then, we have had snow, heavy winds and freezing temperatures that have done a lot of damage. Birds have been migrating and mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter are reappearing, certainly a sure sign of spring.
March has been a busy time at the Conservancy, as you will see from the articles in this issue of The Highlands Voice. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy board and its committees have been alert and continue to seize opportunities for the protection of West Virginia’s highlands.
WVHC Legislative Committee and the 2022 Legislative Session
It seemed that the whole world was watching this year’s legislative session which ended March 12. Sixty days seemed like an eternity as we watched good and bad legislation introduced and then followed to see those that did and did not move through the process. See the great article recapping the legislative session in this Highlands Voice.
WVHC Public Lands Committee
WVHC filed an objection to the Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Greenbrier Southeast Project (GSE) and received response from the Forest Supervisor addressing each of the twenty-seven issues stated in the objection that has now been reviewed by the committee. The Supervisor concluded that the Greenbrier Southeast Project Final EA, DDN/FONSI, and supporting documents in the project record were in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies, and with the Monongahela’s Forest Plan. The only exceptions he addressed were in regard to Issues 7, Candy darter – failure to conduct an adequate cumulative effects analysis and 18, Inadequate cumulative effects disclosure associated with soil disturbance, and he instructed the Forest to correct those exceptions as follows:
- Issue 7 instruction: Disclose the cumulative effects as provided by NEPA implementing regulations for the candy darter and its proposed critical habitat. Consider all relevant past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions on private, State, and Federal lands with similar effects overlapping in time and space with direct and indirect effects from the proposed action.
- Issue 18 instruction: Disclose the cumulative effects as provided by NEPA implementing regulations for the soils resource. Consider all relevant past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions on private, State, and Federal lands with similar effects overlapping in time and space with direct and indirect effects from the proposed action.
Based on the committee’s review of the response to issue 6, Candy darter – inadequate effects analysis and reliance on mitigations which stated:
The Final EA has considered the potential for sediment production and delivery to streams documented in the Greenbrier Southeast Project Watershed Analysis Process (in the project record). This document shows monitoring data for forest-wide stream sediment changes that are not directly associated with management activities but instead are driven by natural processes. These data show streams in wilderness areas increasing in fine sediment and some streams in areas of management decreasing in fine sediment. Therefore, it appears that the project planning conducted by Monongahela National Forest staff is successful in protecting streams from any quantifiable changes in sediment delivery. [emphasis added]
The committee has requested additional information as follows:
We have obtained the cited document. It does not show or provide the data used in the analysis. Instead, it provides a qualitative summary of results for selected example sites. Because the findings reported in this document are central to your dismissal of our concerns about National Forest Management and preservation and restoration of candy darter critical habitat, we request a listing of the specific data used in the analysis. We wish to obtain the actual data values that “show streams in wilderness areas increasing in fine sediment and some streams in areas of management decreasing in fine sediment.” We also request any spreadsheets or data tables used in the analysis.
Other WVHC Committee Activities
Committees are working on other projects and issues including rerouting of a section of Corridor H, preparing recommendations that individuals can do to combat climate change, preparing for the 2022 Dolly Sods Stewards program activities, monitoring water pollution and mining issues, and planning a Fall Review in October. Committees are always looking for members, so if you are interested, let us know. The WVHC committees are listed here in the Highlands Voice.
Trash in Our Public Lands – Information from Leave No Trace
With warmer weather activities increase and the potential for trash being left on our public lands also increases. Many individuals do not realize that these items take much longer than we might think to decompose, and we must dispose of waste properly anytime we are in the outdoors. A great article concerning this problem can be found at Skills Series: Trash Timeline – Leave No Trace (lnt.org).
Time to get out and enjoy the highlands. I hope to see you along a trail soon. Don’t forget Earth Day on April 22nd.