WV For Public Lands News: June 2020

Action Alert: Congress Prepares To Vote On LWCF Legislation

New River Gorge National River by Melvin Hartley. 

Congress is preparing to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, which enjoys strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. Senator Manchin led the introduction of the bill in the Senate on March 9, with Senator Capito as a co-sponsor. The House version was introduced on June 4. We expect the Senate to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act this week! Now is the time to contact Senators Manchin and Capito to encourage their continued leadership and support of the Act. Send a message here.

Both versions of the Great American Outdoors Act would ensure the Land and Water Conservation Fund receives full program funding each year without going through a drawn-out appropriations process which often leaves it underfunded. LWCF is a highly effective program that uses royalties from offshore oil and gas development to fund recreation and conservation projects. Additionally, the Great American Outdoors Act would provide $9.5 billion over the next 5 years to address the maintenance backlog plaguing our nation’s public lands.

Senator Manchin has long been a champion for public lands and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Check out this story in the Dominion Post to learn more about Senator Manchin’s commitment to public lands. Want more LWCF info? Read this blog by WV Rivers’ Eastern Panhandle field coordinator and find resources on our website here.

Act Now: Contact Senators Manchin and Capito and encourage their continued leadership and support of the Great American Outdoors Act!

National Forest Land Could See Expanded Oil & Gas Drilling

Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest. 

proposed US Forest Service rule could make it easier to drill on National Forest Land. The rule, first proposed in 2018, is currently in draft form and a final version is expected to be released later this summer. As proposed, the rule would align National Forest drilling policies with the more lenient Bureau of Land Management rules. In the draft rule, the Forest Service states they want to “streamline” the approval process for oil and gas leasing and remove roadblocks to oil and gas development.

We’re closely following this proposed rule as it moves through the rule-making process and will share more information as it becomes available. Read more here.

Public Lands Are For Everyone

“Juita Martinez says she makes sure she looks like a birder when she goes out so there’s no question what she’s doing in the outdoors.” Quote and photo from Allegheny Front. 

Our public lands are havens for so many activities from biking to boating to bird-watching. It is a sad truth that many of our minority citizens do not feel safe or welcome in the places white West Virginians retreat to for solace. This has to change. Public lands are for everyone and racism has no place in our society. Period.

WV Rivers, coordinator of the WVPL alliance, encourages you to read, listen, learn and reflect on the experiences of Black Americans in outdoor places. Two good places to start are this conversation hosted by the Audubon Society, and this article by the Allegheny Front. We challenge you to think about how you can make the public lands you love more inclusive and welcoming for all.

Project In National Forest Could Impact Candy Darter

Male (top) and female (bottom) Candy Darters. Photo by WVDNR.

WV Rivers recently submitted comments to the US Forest Service on the proposed Greenbrier Southeast Project, near Bartow.

The 17,000 acre forest management project would include timber harvesting, red spruce restoration, wildlife brook trout habitat improvements, and enhanced recreation opportunities. While we generally support those activities, the project raises concern due to potential impacts on the Candy Darter, a newly listed endangered species in West Virginia. The Environmental Analysis states that the project is not likely to adversely affect the Candy Darter, based on information in the project’s Biological Assessment. However, the Biological Assessment for the Candy Darter has yet to be completed. Without this critical information, the public cannot adequately comment on the project’s impacts. We requested that the Forest Service provide this important document and extend the comment period. Read our comments here.

Monongahela National Forest Opening Recreation Sites

Find up-to-date information about the status of developed recreation areas in the Mon National Forest here. The Forest Service announced its latest round of re-openings on June 4.

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