Watching it snow here on the mountain, I realized that old man winter certainly has a strong grip on the highlands and will for some time. Mixed in were thoughts of the many issues that WVHC addressed during 2018, mountaintop removal mining and valley fills, numerous gas pipelines proposed or under construction, the proposed pump storage hydro project in Tucker County and its negative environmental impacts, the proposal to log in the state parks and what was considered bad legislation affecting the highlands through our participation as a member of the West Virginia Environmental Council. The list continues to grow.
WVHC and its committees will continue to work, as it has for over 51 years, on the continuing issues above, plus important issues and initiatives affecting the highlands currently and for the future.
WVHC will continue to participate in the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, (CASRI), (see the article by David Saville in the November 2018 Highlands Voice). CASRI is comprised of private, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations which recognize the importance of the red spruce ecosystem for its ecological, aesthetic, recreational, economic, and cultural values that have planted nearly 1,000,000 trees and released over 2,000 acres of red spruce. In West Virginia alone, the range of spruce-influenced forests has shrunk by between 450,000 acres and 1,350,000 acres since the late 1800’s. With rapid landscape changes encroaching from climate change, we need to act quickly and effectively to restore our forests on a wider scale.
The Public Lands Committee continues to monitor theForest Service projects in the Monongahela National Forest for which WVHC has submitted comments concerning what are considered major flaws in terms of protecting sensitive resources and potentially conflict with the Forest Plan. Those projects are:
Spruce Mountain Grouse Management Area https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=51058&exp=overview
Panther Ridge Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Project
Big Rock Project
Grassy Ridge Project
During November we were invited to participate in the initial planning meeting and to tour the early planning for the new project. WVHC submitted informal comments and suggestions and has been told that the forest service would include our comments in their pre-planning scoping conversations.
WVHC is also monitoring other issues that could have negative Impacts on the highlands. These issues are:
Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans, using zero taxpayer dollars. The fund invested earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities. LWCF supports outdoor recreation and public lands essential to the quality of life for every West Virginian. LWCF was allowed to expire on September 30, 2018. WVHC along with other environmental organizations is a part of efforts to have LWCF reauthorized and appropriation of permanent funding for the future.
There are efforts to eliminate roadless areas in Alaska that could have negative impacts for West Virginia. WVHC along with other environmental organizations are monitoring those activities and will determine appropriate actions if that should occur.
2019 promises to be another busy year for the Conservancy and we will keep you informed, as events occur, through the Voice.