Our Public Lands Issues
West Virginia Rivers and our partners tracking issues impacting national public lands here in West Virginia and across the nation. We also collaborate to raise voices for our state parks and forests. Here are some of the issues we track.
TAKE ACTION! Please write to Senator Manchin today to show your support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund!
Land and Water Conservation Fund
Policy: Land and Water Conservation Fund
What it does: Established in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) uses revenue generated from federal oil and gas leases on our public land to support thousands of conservation projects across the nation. For two generations it has been the most powerful and reliable source of funding for America’s public lands.
The Threat: LWCF is set to expire September 30, 2018. We are asking our Congressional delegation to champion permanent reauthorization and funding. SIGN OUR ACTION ALERT.
About the LWCF
At the federal level, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the primary mechanism to purchase inholdings, easements, and mineral rights to conserve and improve access to public land. States receive grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire, build, and maintain parks and other recreational facilities like swimming pools, ballfields, picnic shelters, and playgrounds. LWCF also supports our state parks and hunting and fishing access on wildlife management areas.
Unfortunately, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire on September 30, 2018. We need strong leadership from our elected officials in Washington to ensure this vital fund is renewed and that it receives its full share from Congress each year. West Virginia’s public lands count on LWCF! Let West Virginia’s congressional delegation know you want a strong LWCF, send a letter today.
West Virginia has received nearly $240 million from LWCF for over 500 projects in 54 of our 55 counties.
LWCF for Federal Public Land: $184 million
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Monongahela National Forest
New River Gorge National River
Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area
LWCF for WV State Parks: $8 million
Supports campgrounds, lodges, and recreation facilities in 26 state parks, including Watoga and Blackwater Falls.
Policy: The Antiquities Act
What it does: Enables the President to create national monuments on federal lands
Threats: 1) Various bill seek to eliminate presidential authority; 2) A 2017 review of 27 monuments by the interior department led to gutting Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments — more could be impacted. The conservation community, supported by legal precedent, believes these reductions are not lawful.
About the Antiquities Act
Since 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, the President has had the authority to designate National Monuments so that future generations can experience our nation’s wildlife, waters, historic sites, and open spaces.
The Act grew out of concerns that developed over the course of the last quarter of the 19th century for the preservation of America’s cultural and natural heritage. National and regional educators and scientists, including those involved in the developing profession of archeology, joined together in a movement to safeguard sites on public lands that were being disturbed and damaged by human activity.
In all, 16 Presidents – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats – have used the authority granted by the act to safeguard public lands, oceans, and historic sites in order to share America’s story with future generations. These national monument designations are broadly supported from coast to coast and provide a myriad of benefits to local communities, including economic boosts from tourism, places to enjoy the outdoors, clean air and water, protection for ecologically sensitive areas, and windows into our country’s history.
Sending a signal that protections for our shared history, culture, and natural treasures are temporary would set a terrible precedent. National monuments have been shown to be tremendous drivers of the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy and businesses rely on the permanency of these protections when making decisions about investing in these communities.
Policy: The Roadless Area Rule
What’s it do: The “Roadless Rule” was established by the US Forest Service in 2001 after an extensive inventory and mapping of undeveloped public lands. It prohibits road construction for logging and mining in designated backcountry areas. Today the Roadless Rule conserves 44.8 million acres in 37 states. There are 182,000 roadless acres among the three national forests within West Virginia.
Threat: Within Congress and the administration there are efforts to exempt Alaska and Idaho from the Roadless Rule. This would open the door for further exemptions, including in West Virginia.
Read more: Click to read our Roadless Rule Map & Fact Sheet.
About Roadless Areas In The Monongahela National Forest
You may have never heard of a “roadless area” but chances are they’re key to your recreational experience. Some of the places we all know and love best in the Monongahela National Forest are designated as “roadless areas” including Seneca Creek, Roaring Plains, Canaan Loop, Tea Creek, and North Mountain. These areas were protected in 2001 under the Forest Service’s Roadless Rule to limit increasing development of remote public lands.
Aside from our federally designated wilderness areas, roadless areas provide some of the most sought-after destinations in the Monongahela National Forest for hikers, bikers, paddlers, hunters, and anglers. In many instances roadless areas overlap with the backcountry recreation management prescription in the Mon Forest Plan, highlighting their importance in providing “wild and wonderful” outdoor opportunities.
North Mountain Roadless Area: Known for rocky ridges and offering scenic views of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, the North Fork Mountain Trail to Chimney Rocks was declared the “best hike in WV” in 2017 by Backpacker Magazine. In the rain shadow of Spruce Knob, North Mountain is the driest habitat in the state. Previously an contender for an IMBA Epic ride.
Seneca Creek Roadless Area: An IMBA Epic ride can take you from the summit of West Virginia’s highest mountain down the Huckleberry Trail, along a world-class trout stream and to a popular campsite near Judy Springs. Extreme kayakers have been known to paddle Seneca Creek.
Roaring Plains Roadless Area: Offers a critical link between the Roaring Plains West and Dolly Sods wilderness, containing the southern extreme of boreal forest-type habitat. The high elevation plateau on the edge of the Allegheny Front that gives Roaring Plains its name looks out upon the most vertical relief in the state. Popular hikes include Boars Nest Trail and Roaring Plains Trail.
Tea Creek Roadless Area: A campground, trail system, three backcountry shelters and the ruins of historic logging camps all tucked in the beautiful Williams River valley. The rock gardens and steep descents of Gauley Mountain and Tea Creek trails are beloved by the local mountain biking community and host yet another IMBA Epic ride.
Hills Creek Roadless Area: A very popular short trail leads to the Falls of Hills Creek, a series of three waterfalls with the last one being one of the tallest waterfalls in West Virginia, plunging a dramatic 63 overhanging feet.
Cheat Mountain Roadless Area: The most common way to see this roadless area is via a scenic excursion train named the Cheat Mountain Salamander that starts from Elkins. The train runs along the border of the roadless area and stops at the High Falls of the Cheat, which are only accessible via rail or trail.
Canaan Loop, Little Allegheny Mountain, Middle Mountain, and Little Mountain Roadless Areas: All contain segments of the Allegheny Trail, a 330 mile north-to-south trail through West Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest from the Appalachian Trail to the Mason-Dixon line. Canaan Loop offers two trail shelters for backpackers in thick spruce forests.
East Fork Greenbrier Roadless Area: The adjacent Island Campground is a popular spot for fishermen.
Marlin Mountain Roadless Area: Contains a portion of the Greenbrier River Trail, a 78-mile rail-to-trail and a WV State Park. A favorite among hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians for day trips or extended overnight adventures.
Logging in WV state parks
Policy: A January 2018 bill, SB 270, to allow commercial logging in our state parks.
What it meant: Cutting down the most treasured asset of our state parks: our mature, ecologically diverse woods.
Status: Died in committee, thanks to the SOS Parks campaign, but it could re-emerge.
About SOS Parks
In January 2018, the Justice administration announced plans to log our state parks to pay for maintenance. With some of the only mature forests in West Virginia, our state parks are our pride and joy.
Advocates launched a campaign called Save Our State Parks — SOS Parks. Together we compiled ideas to fund our parks, set up supports to help raise partners’ voices in the media and generate letters through our action alerts, and created a lobbying team. We went from zero to sixty in a flash.
There were many partners, including WV Rivers, WV Wilderness Coalition, WV Environmental Council, Sierra Club WV, Friends of Blackwater, WV Scenic Trails Association, and Kanawha Forest Coalition.
As the administration took to the airways, their story fell flat. Then their story changed. Commercial logging, they said, would improve the visitor experience. The coalition amplified voices of park visitors who said, “Wait! We visit our parks because they contain amazing forests!”
The narrative changed again. Logging would improve forest health, the administration said. Our coalition brought the voices of foresters to the Capitol and to the press. Science showed that old forests were better able to ward off fire, pests, and invasive species.
Then the administration tried a new approach: They would log only in Watoga State Park. Perhaps they thought people wouldn’t care about a remote park in Pocahontas County. They were wrong. People from all over the state wrote letters and called the Senate committee considering the bill. Not Watoga, not anywhere.
Through West Virginians for Public Lands, we organized letter writing parties in homes, libraries, and brew pubs. Experts testified. In the end, the bill died in committee.
The people of West Virginia spoke up and were heard. But we can’t be complacent. A bill like this could re-emerge in any session. The best way to help is to become part of the WVPL community. Sign up for e-news today!