Thoughts from our President

By Larry Thomas

Winter certainly has arrived in the highlands with freezing temperatures, strong winds (causing wind chills to drop below zero) and several snowstorms blanketing the mountains. We have to wonder what Old Man Winter’s plans for February and March are, but we will have to deal with whatever is sent our way. No matter, the Conservancy must keep focusing on new and exciting opportunities and continue to monitor unresolved issues that we have been working on as are reported every month in The Highlands Voice.

The West Virginia 2023 Legislature is in Full Session

The legislative session has begun, and as reported in a separate article, bills are being introduced at a fast and furious pace. Members of the Conservancy Legislative Committee as well as the West Virginia Environmental Council Lobby Team are monitoring bill introductions for those of interest, both good and bad, compiling a list of those to be watched as they move through the process. 

An issue that the Conservancy is keeping an eye out for is legislation to permit the use of Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) on West Virginia public lands. The Public Lands Committee has prepared information concerning the issues caused by allowing ORV use on our public lands, studies that must be addressed before considering permitting the use of ORVs on our public lands and the issues that must be assessed and studied to be sure that the environmental concerns of society are addressed before such a decision is made. See the information posted on the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance Conservation Hub “Off -Road Vehicle Recreation On West Virginia Public Lands” at

We All Live in a Watershed

The Conservancy has always advocated for clean water. I came across this great information about watersheds that describes a watershed, a list of watershed problems and what we can do as individuals to protect our watersheds.  

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is the land that water flows across or under on its way to a river, lake, stream or bay. Water travels over farm fields, forests, suburban lawns and city streets, or it seeps into the soil and travels as groundwater. Watersheds are separated from each other by high points, such as hills or slopes.

To picture a watershed, think of a small brook that flows into a river. The river then flows into a lake. All the land that surrounds the brook, river and lake are in one watershed, because all the water in the area flows into the lake. In addition, the lake and its watershed may be a part of a larger river’s watershed. Water in the larger rivers eventually makes its way to the ocean.

What is your Watershed Address?

Everyone lives in a watershed. The water in your backyard drains over or under the ground to a small creek or pond and is a part of its watershed. Where does the rain in your backyard end up? The answer to this question is your watershed address, the drainage basin where you live.

What is a Drainage Basin?

A drainage basin is a larger watershed containing the watersheds of several other smaller rivers and streams. 

What are Identified Watershed Problems

People can affect the environment’s health when they pollute a watershed. Pollutants are materials that can harm plants, animals or humans. These materials may be discharged directly into a water body or washed off the land and into water bodies. Some can also seep into the soil and groundwater.

Examples of pollutants include soil from construction sites, waste from septic systems, fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. Road salt, soil and animal waste can also pollute if washed into a water body. Sources of pollution include atmospheric deposition (acid rain), runoff from paved roads and driveways, lawns, eroding stream banks, oil spills, landfills, industries, and farm fields. Depending on the type and level of pollution, the water body may become unsuitable for fishing, swimming, or even for aquatic animals to survive in.

A watershed may also be harmed when people change how and where water flows, for example, by paving large parking lots or changing the direction of a stream. Problems such as flooding or lower groundwater levels can result.

What are Ways to Protect Watersheds?

Everyone lives in a watershed. It could be large or small. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you.

  • Get involved. Little things can all add up. Get together with friends and adopt a section of waterway. Plan a picnic with friends and clean up the banks of a nearby waterway, bike route or highway.
  • Sweep sidewalks and driveways rather than hosing them off. Hosing hard surfaces wastes water and moves the debris into the storm drains. There it can collect and clog the drain. Instead, collect and compost yard waste.
  • Don’t waste water. Wash your car on the lawn, or better yet, use a commercial car wash. Most commercial car washes recycle or pre-treat their wastewater, thereby reducing its effect on the environment.
  • Don’t flush unused drugs and cosmetics down the drain. These pollutants find their way out into the environment and can damage our watershed and everything living in it. Instead, dispose of these items, along with fats, grease, diapers, and personal hygiene products in the garbage can.

The Highlands Conservancy board met on January 29th. Highlights are reported in this issue of The Highlands Voice. I want to thank everyone in attendance as it was a very productive meeting. It is increasingly difficult to keep up as lots of good and potentially concerning information surfaces every day.

Please stay safe as we continue through the winter.