Thoughts from our president: Reviewing the review

October was a very busy month, saddened by the loss of a longtime, from the beginning of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, friend, board member and supporter of the Conservancy Jean Rodman. Postings on the board listserv and stories in this Voice and the many pages in the forty years of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy tell the wonderful story.

The month started with the Fall Review on October 5, 6 and 7at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center in Pendleton County.  The weekend was packed full of activities.

Those who arrived Friday evening shared pizza and lively conversations.

Saturday morning started with a very informative presentation on the history, vision and mission of Experience Learning and the Spruce Knob Mountain Center by David Martin, Managing Director. During the afternoon, participants had a choice of three field trips, the Sinks of Gandy Tour led by David Saville, the Spruce Knob Summit Tour – Understanding the Highlands Landscape, led by Jim Van Gundy and the Spruce Restoration at Experience Learning Facility Tour led by David Martin. Great comments were heard from participants on all of the tours. In the evening there were three very informative presentations, The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia by Thomas Minney, Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI)by Rick Webb and The U. S. Forest Service Role in the Highlands by Kent Karriker. Afterwards for those brave souls who still had energy in the tank, we enjoyed a great tour of the observatory under a very cooperative dark sky.

Sunday, first was the annual membership meeting during which we elected our new senior vice president Marilyn Shoenfeld, as well as the six directors-at-large recommended by the nominating committee. I want to personally thank Marilyn, our two newest directors and four incumbent directors for volunteering for those positions. We then moved into a very productive fall board meeting.

Planning has already started for the Fall 2019 Review.

Also during October, we took the opportunity to submit three comment letters for proposed projects within the Monongahela National Forest as well as signing-on to letters of comment prepared by other organizations concerning various other issues and projects that were thought to be important to the Conservancy.

Comment letters to the Forest Service were:

Spruce Mountain Grouse Management Area– This proposed project is in the Potomac Ranger District west and southwest of Spruce Knob Lake and is near the community of Osceola, WV. The objective of the project is to restore and maintain ruffed grouse habitat in the existing management area by increasing early successional habitat for cover and enhancing species diversity to increase foraging opportunities.  Our comments addressed the Draft Environmental Assessment for the project.

Panther Ridge Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Project– This proposed project is in the Marlinton Ranger District seven miles east of Falling Springs on County Route 11 with the following project boundaries: Greenbrier River to the west, Little Creek to the east, Hopkins Knob to the south and Spice Run and is for wildlife enhancement. Our comments addressed the Draft Environmental Assessment for the project.

Big Rock Project– This proposed project is in the Gauley Ranger District within the Cranberry River watershed north of Richwood in Nicholas and Webster Counties and is to provide diverse early successional forest (clearcutting w/reserves 1342 acres), improve forest health and growth (traditional cut 702 acres and helicopter thin 491 acres) and provide water sources for wildlife (creation of 20 vernal pools). Our comments addressed the Draft Environmental Assessment for the project.

Already dates have been set to sit down with forest service personnel to discuss our comments.

Again, I would like to thank the members and board members for taking their weekend to participate in the 2018 Fall Review and am looking forward to a very productive year and would like to close with this I found by A, G, Huger.

“No fairer land surely is this, where the hills are feathered with forest and braided with the rills! The mountains that over these green valleys rise, ever woo’d by the winds, ever kissed by the skies; and the homes and hearts that they shall hold. Gifts sweeter than glory and richer than gold.”