July has been a very active month at the Conservancy as you will see in many of the articles in this month’s Highlands Voice and the efforts of all involved to get the job done are greatly appreciated.
Old Growth Forests Executive Order
As mentioned last month, the Executive Order signed by the President and aimed at protecting the United States’ forests, especially old-growth forests has created a lot of confusion, and everyone has been waiting for information and guidance form the administration. The order directs the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Forest Service (Forest Service), and the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 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.
On July 14, 2022 the, USDA, Forest Service, DOI and BLM invited public comment to inform the response to Executive Order Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies which requires USDA and DOI to define old-growth and mature forests on Federal lands; complete an inventory and make it publicly available; coordinate conservation and wildfire risk reduction activities; identify threats to mature and old-growth forests; develop policies to address threats; develop Agency-specific reforestation goals by 2030; develop climate-informed reforestation plans; and develop recommendations for community-led local and regional economic development opportunities.
“Old-growth and mature forests are critical to ensuring resilience in our forests in the face of climate change, and they play a key role in storing carbon,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We look forward to hearing from the public on how best to define and inventory them.”
Specifically, the Federal Register Notice seeks comments on the following questions:
- What criteria are needed for a universal definition framework that motivates mature and old-growth forest conservation and can be used for planning and adaptive management?
- What are the overarching old-growth and mature forest characteristics that belong in a definition framework?
- How can a definition reflect changes based on disturbance and variation in forest type/composition, climate, site productivity and geographic region?
- How can a definition be durable but also accommodate and reflect changes in climate and forest composition?
- What, if any, forest characteristics should a definition exclude?
Members of the WVHC Public Lands Committee attended a live informational webinar held for interested members of the public on July 21, 2022. The webinar was recorded and the webinar recording is posted at https://vimeo.com/733417347 and the slides at https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/mature-old-growth-forests-20220721-publicinfosession.pdf.
Comments must be received in writing by August 15, 2022.
Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards Program
WVHC has partnered with the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) to sponsor volunteer activities that will assist MNF in managing and preserving Dolly Sods Wilderness and adjacent areas and the program is running full speed with more volunteers and more projects during 2022. See the monthly update by David Johnston in this issue of the Highlands Voice to see all of the activities the volunteers are accomplishing. A special thanks to the volunteers.
WVHC Outings Program
The outings program got off to a great start with the Candy Darter and Hellbender Snorkeling Outing on July 16, 2022. See the article in this issue of the Highlands Voice.
As was suggested, outings will be planned to connect our members, supporters, volunteers, and the public with our public lands in West Virginia. Outings give participants a sense of participation and buy-in with the management of our public lands. Outings also are a way to provide support to wise management activities, and help managers to better understand, and to initiate projects and programs that better align with WVHC interests. WVHC will plan and conduct three primary types of outings.
a) Meet the Public Lands Manager: These outings would go to a particular area of Federal or State of West Virginia public lands where we would meet the manager responsible for that area from its land managing agency. We would discuss the mandates that agency has regarding the management of that area, learn more about the person charged with implementing that mandate, discuss current issues facing the area management, discuss projects being considered, and finally visit locations within the area for a hike or car tour. These might be scheduled in such a way to coincide with some major project or issues of concern in that management area.
b) Service Projects: These outings would focus on providing volunteer labor to help accomplish a management goal on different public lands in West Virginia. Trail maintenance, invasive species control, forest restoration or other tasks would be addressed.
c) Recreational: These outings might be hikes, caving, boating, skiing, biking, or other fun activities to help people learn different ways to experience and develop a greater appreciation for different areas of public lands in West Virginia.
We look forward to seeing you on a planned outings in the future.
The board of directors and committees of WVHC thank our members and supporters for your continued support. August will again be another busy month at the Conservancy as well as for other environmental organizations that we continue to work with on various issues and projects throughout the Highlands. Please stay safe and enjoy the many activities that the highlands have to offer as the summer season progresses.