Our History

First coming together in 1965, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is one of the state’s oldest environmental activist organizations. With the increased awareness of environmental issues in the 1960s, a coalition of recreational users of the West Virginia Highlands came together to address a whole host of environmental threats to our state. Over the past 50 years, the Highlands Conservancy has continued to be the leader in protecting the natural environment of our state through both defensive and offensive campaigns.

When the Highlands Conservancy was formed, the proposed Highlands Scenic Highway would have sliced a gaping wound from north to south through the heart of the highlands, the Royal Glen dam would have flooded much of the Potomac Valley including the Smoke Hole area, the Davis Power project threatened much of Canaan Valley with inundation, the proposed Rowlesburg Dam on the Cheat River threatened to flood the Cheat River Valley including the St. George area, and newly proposed strip mines threatened many of our forests and mountains and condemned many of our waterways with acid mine drainage.

From the beginning, the Highlands Conservancy has dealt with a whole array of threats to our wonder-full state. We were instrumental in the passage of the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act, which gave us our first Wilderness areas–Dolly Sods and Otter Creek. We began a campaign that lasted over 35 years to protect Canaan Valley and saw the successful establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge there. We mounted campaigns to stop numerous dams proposed around the state. We filed our first lawsuit against strip mining in 1967, which was the beginning of almost 50 years of leadership on coal mining issues in West Virginia. In 1998 we were the first organization to challenge the destructive practice of mountaintop removal and valley fills. We helped enact important environment-protecting legislation such as the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). Protecting clean air, clean water, forests, streams, mountains, and the health and welfare of the people that live here and those who visit, is what the Highlands Conservancy is all about.

The WV Highlands Conservancy publishes the Hiking Guide to the Monongahela National Forest. Our monthly newspaper, the Highlands Voice has been in continuous monthly publication since 1967. WV Highlands Conservancy members do far more than work to protect our state from destructive forces. Together, they also enjoy the lands and waters they work to protect through Conservancy-sponsored activities. They explore woodlands, valleys, bogs and caves, canoe and fish, climb mountains, and search out birds, wildflowers and native animals. Conservancy membership means new friendships, new experiences, and new rewards.