Thoughts from our President

By Larry Thomas

We were very excited that the February 2023 issue of The Highlands Voice was printed in color for the very first time. In addition, Olivia, our communications director is in Tasmania, Australia, and was able to put the Voice together from approximately 9,887 miles around the world and has done the same with this issue, thanks to the marvel of technology.

Off-Road Vehicles Continue to Pose a Threat to 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. As reported previously, the Conservancy Legislative Committee along with the West Virginia Environmental Council, and other environmental organizations have kept an eye out during this legislative session for any legislation to permit the use of ORVs on West Virginia public lands. As predicted, bills were again introduced all linked and laying the foundation for a comprehensive program to allow the use of ORVs on our West Virginia public lands. 

The Public Lands Committee’s “ORV Recreation on West Virginia Public Lands” project is posted on the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Conservation Hub site and highlights the threats ORVs pose to the environmental integrity of our public lands. Sponsored by the Conservancy, the project includes information and an interactive online map to help educate the public and legislators regarding the impacts of ORVs use on our public lands. The project’s web page points out that “there are severe effects and environmental impacts” if permitted to operate on public lands, citing a comprehensive study on the issue conducted by the United States Geological Survey. The study discusses the negative impacts that often result when ORVs are permitted to be used on public lands, including the effects on soils, vegetation, wildlife habitats, water quality and the Socioeconomic Implications of their use.

The photo above is an example of damage caused by illegal ORV use on National Forest lands. 

Concerns over the environmental damage that can result from ORVs being operated on certain lands is not limited to West Virginia. The Virginia Mercury ran a major story on the environmental damage that ORVs are causing to a system of trails in Southwestern Virginia. The article reported on the three-year fight that a local citizens group, the Clinch Coalition, has had with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality over erosion and sediment control problems caused by ORVs to the trail system.

The West Virginia 2023 Legislature

Once again activities at the legislature have taken front row in the environmental community. Luanne McGovern, chair of the Conservancy’s Legislative Committee, along with the West Virginia Environmental Council and other environmental organizations, have been keeping an eye on good as well as bad legislation. 60 days seems like an eternity for those involved with watching the legislative session. See the article in this month’s Voice for an update of the happenings.

Other Conservancy Committee Activities

Committees are working on other projects and issues including rerouting of a section of Corridor H, preparing recommendations for what individuals can do as their part to combat climate change, preparing for the 2023 Dolly Sods Stewards program activities, monitoring water pollution, and mining issues, scheduling more outings throughout 2023 and planning another exciting Fall Review in October. Committees are always looking for members, so if you are interested, please contact us.

Thanks again to the Conservancy board of directors and committees for all of your hard work and dedication and a special thank you to our members and supporters for your continued support. Your continued vote of confidence in our work is greatly appreciated.