WV Public Lands Update: LWCF & WV, PEOPLE Act of 2020

Land and Water Conservation Fund Investments in West Virginia

After an exciting win of full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), state and federal agencies are now preparing for additional financial resources for recreation and conservation projects. To help ensure these funds have the greatest impact, WV Rivers and partners in the West Virginians for Public Lands alliance have been working with the WV Development Office (WVDO) on reviewing a draft of the new Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), a guidance document for statewide LWCF investments. The SCORP document will go into effect in April 2021.

With increased LWCF funding provided to the state through the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the new SCORP is more important than ever. The involvement of WV-based conservation groups in reviewing this draft document is essential for the inclusion of adequate conservation measures.

You can provide important feedback on the 2020-2025 draft SCORP document too! 

The WVDO is conducting two virtual public hearings on November 5 for its SCORP and LWCF Fiscal 2020 grant application program. Learn more and register HERE.

New Legislation: The Public Engagement Opportunity on Public Lands Exploration (PEOPLE) Act of 2020

As mentioned in our previous WV Public Lands newsletter, the administration released its plan in September to make oil and gas development easier on U.S. Forest Service Lands. Unfortunately, this was not the first attempt to silence public input when it comes to how public lands are managed. In 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2018-034 that overturned prior oil and gas leasing reforms which ensured careful consideration of meaningful public input on energy development decisions on public lands.

In response, the Public Engagement Opportunity on Public Lands Exploration (PEOPLE) Act of 2020 has been introduced to ensure robust public participation in land management decisions. It mandates practical leasing procedures that encourage public participation and proactive outreach with state agencies, private landowners, local governments, and other stakeholders.

If enacted, the PEOPLE Act of 2020 would:

  • Require identification and public notice of persons nominating and bidding on lease parcels.
  • Require 90-day notice prior to lease sales and 30-day notice prior to approving Applications for Permits to Drill (APDs) or lease stipulation changes.
  • Require site specific environmental analysis.
  • Prohibit the leasing of any parcel which has not been specifically identified or evaluated in the NEPA documentation for a particular lease sale.
  • Explicitly require outreach and protection of private surface owners in connection with leasing and development beneath their lands.
  • For lease sales, require:
    • 15-days scoping periods,
    • 30-day comment periods for draft EAs/DNAs, and
    • 45-day protest periods.
  • Require engagement with local governments before lands are leased.

Everyone who cares about public lands deserves to have their voices heard before approval of oil and gas development that could impact their health, homes, livelihoods, economic wellbeing, communities and the places they value. Show your support the of PEOPLE Act of 2020, to improve the public engagement opportunities and transparency in local land management decisions. Write your WV Senators!

Monongahela National Forest Access Updates 

The Forest Service continues to provide guidance on use of developed recreational sites to keep visitors safe. You can find up-to-date information about access and restrictions within the Mon National Forest here.

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