Thoughts from our president

It’s October and Mother Nature is very busy with the annual coloring of the leaves. Driving through the mountains, it is very evident witnessing the annual transformation from green to the scarlet, purple, orange, yellow and brown of the fall foliage. While visiting Lake Buffalo, Spruce Knob Lake, and Spruce Knob during the last week I saw individual trees that were absolutely spectacular. If Mother Nature keeps her pallet working, I believe we are in for a terrific show when the leaves reach their peak. Popular destinations such as Dolly Sods are already crowded with visitors from all over the country.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Hires a Communications Director

Several months ago, John McFerrin, Director, Secretary and Highlands Voice Editor for 20 years, called me to say that he wanted to retire as the Highlands Voice Editor by no later than December 31. After getting over the shock, the board decided that this presented the opportunity to create the position of Communications Director. The responsibilities would include working with the President, Program Director, Membership and Fulfillment Secretary, working committees, and board members; they would lead the external communication efforts of the WVHC, including but not limited to The Highlands Voice, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy website, active social media platforms, direct communications with WVHC members and supporters, and public relations messages to articulate WVHC’s mission consistently.

The Board is pleased to welcome Olivia Miller as Communications Director. Olivia started October 1st. She told me how excited she is to have been selected for this new role for the Conservancy.

Olivia is an experienced communicator, writer, graphic designer, social media strategist and digital marketing professional, with a passion for nature, outdoor adventure, and environmental conservation.

We are looking forward to the increased emphasis on communications at the Conservancy.                                                                                     

September again saw a whirlwind of activities of interest to the Conservancy.                                                                                                        

Off-Road Vehicles on West Virginia Public Lands

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has a long history of opposing Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use on our West Virginia federal and state public lands and the Legislative Committee is keeping an eye on any action that attempts to promote that issue. 

            The Members of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Subcommittee had an interim Legislative Meeting on September 11 concerning the use of Off-Road Vehicles on West Virginia public lands.

Two out-of-state interests spoke about how Western states expanded off-road vehicle use on vast tracks of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, trying to make the case that Western methods should work in West Virginia. 

Two former West Virginia State Parks administrators, Sam England a retired West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Chief of Parks and retired Park Superintendent Scott Durham, with over 90 combined years of experience between them, testified to set the record straight. They provided testimony on the state of public lands and the implications of off-road vehicle use. 

A major revelation in their testimony was that off-road vehicle use on public lands would displace all other forms of recreation on our state lands.

            The Conservancy sent a letter to the Subcommittee concerning our position on the use of Off-Road Vehicles on our public lands and identifying the effects and concerns from a study by the United States Geological Survey relating to:

   ● ORV Effects on Soils and Watersheds

   ● ORV Effects on Vegetation

   ● ORV Effects on Wildlife and Habitats

   ● ORV Effects on Water Quality

   ● ORV Effects on Air Quality

   ● Socioeconomic Implications of ORV Use

   ● Maintenance Cost

   ● Law Enforcement Cost

To listen to the meeting. West Virginia Senate (

WVHC committees continue to be very active. Work is being focused on legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session which will be here before we know it, Corridor H issues for the sections from Davis and Thomas to Parsons and Wardensville to the Virginia line, Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards and other public lands issues and the upcoming Fall Review. Committee work never ends as we tackle the many issues that affect our environment here in West Virginia.

2022 WVHC Fall Review

The fall review is fast approaching, and the Fall Review Committee has been working very hard putting together the program for the weekend. Information concerning the Fall Review is elsewhere in this issue of the Voice. We hope that many of you can attend this exciting event focused on energy for our future.

Thanks again to all of our members and supporters for your continued support which makes what we do at the Highlands Conservancy (for over 54 years) possible. October will be another busy month at the Conservancy as well as for other environmental organizations as we continue to work on various issues and projects throughout the Highlands. Enjoy The Highlands Voice as we report on the issues and happenings in or affecting the Highlands. Please stay safe during the fall season and get out there and enjoy all the Highlands have to offer.