WV Public Lands News: Public Lands Funding Bills, New River Gorge Park and Preserve, Public Comments

Senator Manchin Leads Us Closer to Historic Public Lands Funding

Exciting news for public lands out of DC this week! A new bipartisan bill being led by Senator Manchin that will provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog in our national parks is on track for immediate passage, read more here.

Senator Manchin led the advancement of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last November. Not only does LWCF funding enjoy bipartisan support, but now President Trump has called on Congress to pass the bill.

Full permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund means providing $900 million dollars a year from off-shore oil and gas royalties to LWCF for conservation projects. We’re proud our Senator is the lead champion on this issue.

Senator Manchin held a press conference this week to announce the promise on realizing full-funding for LWCF, which can be viewed here. Stay tuned for updates on passage of this long-awaited public lands funding package!

Comment by 3/10: Keep the Public’s Voice Part of Public Lands Management

If having a voice in public lands management is important to you, then you need to provide comments on a proposed rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Comments are due by 3/10. Read WV Rivers’ draft comments here.

NEPA is fundamental to ensuring the public has a seat at the table on decisions that affect our public lands. This includes decisions on things like energy development and road and pipeline construction. Read more here.

In West Virginia, NEPA is especially important because our large amount of federal public lands – 1,130,952 acres. These special lands are places like the Monongahela National Forest, the New River Gorge National River and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. These are some of the most wild & wonderful lands in West Virginia and YOU own them.

Just this month the US Forest Service is accepting comments on two projects through NEPA.

Grassy Ridge

The Grassy Ridge Project seeks to restore red spruce communities, regenerate hardwood-spruce communities, and manage areas for wildlife. The 5,545-acre project occurs within Randolph and Pendleton counties on the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District. Proposed activities include spruce plantings, thinning hardwood stands within red spruce habitat, diversifying age-classes of hardwoods through selective logging and clear-cutting, and stream restoration in Narrow Ridge Run. Comments can be submitted to comments-eastern-monongahela-potomac@usda.gov. The comment deadline is March 12. More information on the project is available on the Forest Service webpage.

Upper Elk

The Upper Elk Project, similar to Grassy Ridge, seeks to improve forest health and resiliency by restoring mixed red spruce and northern hardwood forests, improving wildlife habitat and increasing the diversity of age-classes within the forest. The project is located in Pocahontas, Randolph, and Webster counties around Slatyfork, WV in the Marlinton-White Sulfur Ranger District. Activities will encompass 33,328 acres and include thinning of undesirable undergrowth, commercial and non-commercial timber harvests, improving in-stream habitat with woody debris, improving recreational opportunities and constructing, de-commissioning and maintaining roads. Comments are due March 21 and can be submitted to comments-eastern-monongahela-marlinton@usda.gov. More info is available on the project webpage.

Field Hearing Held on New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Proposal

Photo by U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Democrats.

In late February the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee held an official field hearing in Beckley on a proposed designation change for the New River Gorge National River. The designation change would establish the New River Gorge as a National Park and Preserve. View maps and read the legislation. You can watch the field hearing here.

The standing room only hearing allowed community members to share their opinions and ask questions about the proposal.

Attitudes on the designation change were fairly evenly split for and against. WV Rivers provided comments on the need for adequate funding to preserve environmental integrity and visitor experience with the anticipated increased tourism the designation change would bring. Check out news articles on the hearing here and here.

WVDNR Wants to Hear from You on Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is important for the health, well-being and enjoyment of West Virginia residents. But participation in “traditional” forms of outdoor recreation – hunting, fishing, shooting, boating and wildlife viewing – is declining.  These activities are important sources of conservation funding through the sale of licenses and tax revenue. To increase participation in traditional outdoor recreation, the WVDNR developed a Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation (R3) strategic plan and now they want to hear from you. Read the plan and submit comments here.

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