February has been an interesting month for the environmental community both federally and within West Virginia.
The Natural Resources Management Act
Congress has passed the Natural Resources Management Act, which is touted as one of the largest land conservation packages in a decadeto protect and invest in America’s public lands. We need to thank both West Virginia senators, Manchin and Capito as well as all three representatives, McKinley, Miller and Mooney, all of whom voted for the legislation. Contact information at https://www.senate.gov/and https://www.house.gov/
The legislation provides:
- Permanent reauthorization of America’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund,but not the needed funding which we must now push for during the budget process.
- Renewal of the Every Kid Outdoors program, which helps kids from all backgrounds experience our national parks.
- Permanent protection of 3 million acres of wilderness and other lands and waters.
- Protection of sensitive places including the otherworldly California desert, precious lands just north of Yellowstone National Park, Washington’s lush Methow Valley and New Mexico’s iconic Rio Grande del Norte—among many, many others.
Quoted from the Statements of Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society:
“This is the most sweeping public lands protection bill in a decade and a testament to the nation’s commitment to conservation. Conserving more than two million acres of the nation’s wild lands is a tremendous gift to future generations. In addition, permanently reauthorizing LWCF is a huge accomplishment that will be felt in every state. This legislation reflects the vast majority of Americans who want enduring conservation of our public lands and waters. Passage of this bill provides a hopeful sign that the new Congress can and will step up to meet our nation’s pressing environmental challenges.”
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
“It’s rare to see Congress act in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, but today reminds everyone that the protection of our public lands isn’t a red or blue issue, it’s an American one. The Sierra Club applauds Congress for passing the largest single wilderness bill in a decade. This is a historic day for the American people and for the public spaces we all enjoy and explore. This well-negotiated compromise will have positive, lasting effects for generations to come. Our members and allies have put in years of work to reach this moment and we are grateful for the congressional leaders who worked diligently to pass this historic legislation.”
Certainly, this is legislation that will be great for America as well as for West Virginia.
Forest Service Projects
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. WVHC received the following from the Forest Service concerning the Spruce Mountain Grouse Management Area.
“We are in the process of finalizing the environmental assessment for the Spruce Knob Grouse Management Area NEPA project and will soon be preparing the draft decision. We’ve made some modifications to our design features and mitigation measures in response to comments and would like to provide you an opportunity to share that information with you in person at our Parsons office, Thursday, March 7th”
A representative of the Public Lands Committee will attend the meeting.
Proposed Big Run Pump Storage Project in Tucker County, West Virginia
The January 3, 2019 United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service second comment letter to FERC stated:
“Our assessment remains unchanged; the Big Run Project is not consistent with the management goals, objectives, and standards identified in the Forest Plan for Management Prescriptions 8.2 and 4.1. Therefore, should FreedomWorks apply for a special use permit to the MNF, it is unlikely that a special use permit would be issued for the Big Run Project.”
FERC has sent a letter to the Forest Service asking that if FreedomWorks, LLC files for the special use permit, would the Forest Service issue the permit. To date the Forest Service has not responded. A response is expected shortly.
West Virginia Legislature
Following the West Virginia legislature this year has been very interesting. The West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) lobby team is doing a great job in keeping up with and reporting on legislation of concern. You can keep up with their activities and reports at https://wvecouncil.org/.
There have been many concerning bills that were introduced with various outcomes. Look for a separate report on legislative actions in the April Voice.
March promises to be another busy month for the Conservancy and we will keep you informed, as events occur, through the Voice.