Thoughts from our President

By Larry Thomas

April found Old Man Winter once again still wasn’t quite ready to leave the highlands. We had heavy winds and freezing temperatures that continued to do significant damage. Even so, signs of spring are everywhere you look. What a wonderful time of the year Mother Nature is providing. 

The Administration Announces New Steps for Climate Resilience and Forest Conservation

At President Biden’s Direction, the United States Departments of Agriculture and Interior Released the Inventory of Mature and Old-Growth Forests and Set Reforestation Targets for Federal Lands Mature and Old-Growth Forests: Definition, Identification, and Inventory  by announcing actions to foster forest conservation, enhance forest resilience to climate change, and inform policymaking on ensuring healthy forests on federally managed lands administered by the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

USDA and DOI worked together to develop several reports, as directed by President Biden’s Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies (E.O. 14072), signed April 22, 2022. The Executive Order called for inventorying mature and old-growth forests, setting reforestation targets on federally managed lands, and analyzing reforestation opportunities on state, Tribal and private lands. In addition, the Forest Service is releasing a new tool that illustrates the risks and vulnerabilities of climate change across the landscape along with a call for public input on how national forests and grasslands should be managed for climate resilience.

USDA and DOI are also releasing a joint reforestation report which includes reforestation targets, assessments and recommendations for increased capacity for seeds and nurseries.

With climate change and related stressors causing rapid, variable change on national forests and grasslands, the Forest Service is asking for public input on how the agency should adapt current policies to protect, conserve, and manage national forests and grasslands for climate resilience. This Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for National Forest and Grassland Climate Resilience will be published in the Federal Register and publication will begin a 60-day public comment period. WVHC looks forward to reviewing the reports and working with partner groups in providing comments.

West Virginia Department of Tourism Announces Dark Sky Promotion

The West Virginia Department of Tourism announced that it has partnered with the International Dark-Sky Association to launch a new campaign highlighting the state’s endless stargazing opportunities. This promotion of West Virginia’s star-studded skies began in conjunction with International Dark Sky Week, which was April 15 – 22, 2023 and will run through the end of the summer.

West Virginia is home to one of the largest and darkest sky sheds within the Eastern United States, which is why Travel + Leisure dubbed West Virginia one of the “most under-the radar stargazing destinations.” Additionally, the International Dark-Sky Association has designated Watoga, Calvin Price, and Droop Mountain Battlefield state parks as “Dark Sky Parks,” which is the highest honor available for stargazing parks. Designations are based on the quality of the night skies, stringent outdoor lighting standards, and innovative community outreach, and the organization has designated less than 200 parks around the world. 

The Department of Tourism is sharing resources on their website and social media platforms to help visitors plan the ideal starry sky getaways this summer–– including trip guides, a packing list, a constellation guide, exclusive discounts and deals, and photography tips. 

West Virginia DNR Rejects RV Campground Proposals for Cacapon Resort State Park Amid Heavy Opposition

The Division of Natural Resources announced it wouldn’t select any of the proposals it received for a campground at Cacapon Resort State Park and has also opened a survey for public input into what the public wants at Cacapon. The survey is about what the public wants in state parks and is open until May 21! You can provide your comments and suggestions at the link. Remember, our state parks are here for your enjoyment.

At the survey site it states, “Over the past five years, the West Virginia State Parks system has seen more than $150 million in improvements. We’re excited to see additional investments on the horizon and are looking for your input on the types of amenities you would like to see added or upgraded”.

The Conservancy looks forward to working with partner groups to suggest additional investments at Cacapon, as well as at our other West Virginia state parks. 

May promises to be another busy month for the Conservancy and other environmental organizations, and we will keep you informed as events occur through The Highlands Voice. It’s time to get out and enjoy the highlands!