Thoughts from our president

Throughout April, Old Man Winter still wasn’t quite ready to leave the highlands. We have had snow, heavy winds and freezing temperatures that have continued to do some damage. Even so, the signs of spring are everywhere. Trees are greening and 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 in bloom everywhere you look. What a beautiful time of the year Mother Nature is providing.

Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies

On April 22, the president signed an executive order aimed at protecting the United States’ forests, especially old-growth forests. Among other things, the order directs the Department of the Interior to inventory the old-growth forests on federal lands over the course of the next year and identify the threats to these trees along with ways to better safeguard them. The order also sets targets for reforesting federal lands by 2030 and helping curb deforestation around the world.

Strengthening America’s forests, which are home to cherished expanses of mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands, is critical to the health, prosperity, and resilience of our communities — particularly in light of the threat of catastrophic wildfires.  Forests provide clean air and water, sustain the plant and animal life fundamental to combating the global climate and biodiversity crises, and hold special importance to Tribal Nations.  We go to these special places to hike, camp, hunt, fish, and engage in recreation that revitalizes our souls and connects us to history and nature.  Many local economies thrive because of these outdoor and forest management activities, including in the sustainable forest product sector.

Globally, forests represent some of the most biodiverse parts of our planet and play an irreplaceable role in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Terrestrial carbon sinks absorb around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities each year.  Here at home, America’s forests absorb more than 10 percent of annual United States economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions.  Conserving old-growth and mature forests on Federal lands while supporting and advancing climate-smart forestry and sustainable forest products is critical to protecting these and other ecosystem services provided by those forests.

Despite their importance, the world’s forests are quickly disappearing; only a small fraction of the world’s mature and old-growth forests remains.  Here at home, the primary threats to forests, including mature and old-growth forests, include climate impacts, catastrophic wildfires, insect infestation, and disease.  We can and must take action to conserve, restore, reforest, and manage our magnificent forests here at home and, working closely with international partners, throughout the world.”

From the Executive Order: Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies | The White House

The WVHC Public Lands Committee will be monitoring the implementation of the requirements by the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest and the Jefferson National Forest.

FERC Approves Change to Mountain Valley Pipeline Plan

Mountain Valley Pipeline developers are now allowed to dig tunnels below streams and wetlands, and environmental groups say they are concerned about the effects on wildlife and habitat (for more, see the story on p. 1).

The fate of the multistate natural gas pipeline remains uncertain, after years of setbacks.

Lewis Freeman, executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, said there is little scientific evidence to back up the recent ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

See the ruling at: eLibrary | File List (

“This environmental efficacy and integrity of boring underneath that many streams and wetlands has not been demonstrated,” Freeman asserted. “In fact, even the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) raised lots of questions in their comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

In a written statement, the commission said the trenchless water body crossing method will result in fewer environmental impacts than the crossing method the Commission approved under the original proposal. See the written statement at: eLibrary | File List ( and environmental assessment at: CP21-57 MVP Amendment Project EA | Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (

See the Sierra Club post “The Mountain Valley Pipeline Is Far from Inevitable” for a current status of the Mountain Valley Pipeline at

Biden Restores Climate to Landmark Environmental Law

A new rule requires agencies to analyze the climate impacts of proposed highways, pipelines and other projects, and gives local communities more input.

The Biden administration announced that it is restoring parts of a bedrock environmental law, once again requiring that climate impacts be considered, and local communities have input before federal agencies approve highways, pipelines and other major projects.

The administration has resurrected requirements of the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The final rule would require federal agencies to conduct an analysis of the greenhouse gases that could be emitted over the lifetime of a proposed project, as well as how climate change might affect new highways, bridges and other infrastructure, according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The rule, which takes effect in 30 days, would also ensure agencies give communities directly affected by projects a greater role in the approval process.

The Burning Question: Why Not Burn Trash? Another Great Leave No Trace Post

Whether you are in your backyard or in the backcountry, burning trash in your fire has negative impacts on human, animal and plant health alike. Garbage has changed over the years and today’s household trash contains a plethora of plastics and paper treated chemicals, coatings, and inks. Trash items like plastics, rubber, foam, textiles, synthetic materials, and batteries contain hazardous chemicals as well. When burnt, these chemicals are released into the air and then breathed in by those in close proximity. The chemicals can also be absorbed by your skin in some cases and even absorbed by the food you might be cooking over that fire. See the three vital reasons we do not recommend burning trash in your backyard fire pit, at the nearby park’s barbeque grill, or in your campsite’s fire ring at: The Burning Question: Why Not Burn Trash? – Leave No Trace (

The WVHC board wants to thank all of our members and supporters for their continued support as well as all of the committees for their hard work. May promises to be another busy month for the Conservancy as well as other environmental organizations that we continue to work with on various issues and we will keep you informed, as events occur, through The Highlands Voice.