Thoughts from our President

By Larry Thomas

Spring officially arrived on March 20 here in the highlands. Winter is fading away as one finds evidence of the different stages of the annual transition from winter to spring. Trees in the lower elevations are leafing out while at higher elevations the trees are still the stately statues of winter waiting for their opportunity as the weather gets a little warmer. Birds have been migrating and are starting their annual nesting rituals. Mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter are starting to reappear and scurrying about filling long empty stomachs. Spring is certainly a time of renewal throughout the highlands.

WVHC Legislative Committee and the 2023 Legislative Session 

Representatives from every environmental group in West Virginia, as well as many other interested organizations and individuals, were observing this year’s legislative session which ended March 11. Sixty days seemed like an eternity as we watched good as well as bad legislation being introduced and then watching every day to monitor those of particular interest as they did and did not move through the legislative process. For the first time, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was able to issue action alerts asking members and supporters to contact legislators to support or reject legislation. See the great article recapping the legislative session in this issue of The Highlands Voice. Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard as they were involved in the process.

New Logo Revealed for 2023 United States Capitol Christmas Tree Project

On March 17, we at the Conservancy learned that this year, the People’s Tree will come from Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, when Amy Albright, Project Manager for the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Project, announced the new logo designed for the project stating:

“All of us at Monongahela National Forest are so excited to share this logo which was specifically designed with the landscape of West Virginia in mind. We are proud of the Mountain State, and we worked to ensure that the logo reflects that.”  

The Monongahela National Forest has provided the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree previously in 1970 and 1976. This year’s theme is “Endlessly Wild and Wonderful.” 

The Forest Service has partnered with the non-profit Choose Outdoors to assist in the creation of a conservation education campaign about the multi-use mission of the Forest Service. The public will be able to join in the fun through virtual and in-person events throughout the year, including making ornaments to adorn the tree. Staff will also provide outreach programs to schools and youth organizations across the state.

“We see this project as an opportunity to celebrate the state of West Virginia and share the mission and values of the Forest Service,” said Forest Supervisor Shawn Cochran. “Our project goals include engaging with children, communities, and non-profit organizations, and strengthening existing relationships with stakeholders including tribal, state and local governments.”

Once the tree is selected and harvested, it will be toured around communities in West Virginia and surrounding states before being delivered to the Architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. 

Those interested can follow the journey of the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and be a part of the festivities at, @uscapitolchristmastree on Instagram, on Facebook at, or the Monongahela National Forest website at and

WVHC Looking to the Future

For more than half a century, the Conservancy has been a leader in promoting, encouraging, and advocating for the conservation and appreciation of the natural resources of West Virginia, especially in the Highlands Region. What a wonderful history of accomplishments as evidenced in our history book Fighting to Protect the Highlands and the monthly issues of the The Highlands Voice.

The Conservancy Board of Directors quarterly board meeting is scheduled for April 22 and 23. Part of the agenda for the weekend meeting will be a facilitated meeting, facilitated by Ethos Leadership Group, LLC., following up on a prior facilitated meeting focused on moving the Conservancy into the future. I remember the lively discussions during that meeting as individuals reflected on our accomplishments and stated their thoughts for the future.

A sample of the wonderful comments follow:

“I believe our state’s natural resources are the common wealth of our citizens, and we should work to preserve and protect them.” 

“I understand the need for projects that are intended to advance economic opportunity in our state, but sometimes advancement comes with social costs that are too high, and I believe those costs are too high when projects compromise our air, water, public lands and health.” 

“West Virginia’s Highlands are the last remnant of the wildness that has earned our state the monikers of “Wild and Wonderful” and “Almost Heaven” and I want to protect that for my children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, and all future generations.” 

“Many years ago, I moved to West Virginia to protect my health. It promised clean air, water, and additional natural resources that I couldn’t find in other states. I chose West Virginia as my home, and I want it to remain a healthy refuge for me, my family, and all fellow West Virginians.”

 “I walk through the landscapes of West Virginia in awe of its beautiful mountains, rushing rivers and vibrant wildlife. I want to preserve these features for generations of residents and visitors to come.” 

“I want to be part of the legacy of honest, credible, honorable men and women who have worked to protect West Virginia’s natural resources, and the Conservancy offers me that opportunity.” 

“I want to save the natural habitat of the birds I love to watch, but that’s not the only environmental concern I have, and I appreciate that the Conservancy has maintained a broad focus and provided a platform for individuals to learn about and advocate for a wide range of environmental issues.”

All that I can say is WOW!

Since it has now been five years since the last facilitated meeting, the Futures Committee recommended that we look at what has been accomplished and to again look into the future. I am really looking forward to the discussions.

The Conservancy board and its committees continue to be busy working on ongoing issues and projects for the protection our wonderful West Virginia’s highlands. Thanks again to all.