WV Public Lands Update: WV Legislative Session, Gauley Healthy Forest Project, and New Partners

2021 Legislative Session: Bills We’re Watching

So far, it hasn’t been an active session for public lands related policy, but there are a couple bills we’re keeping our eyes on.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, introduced by Senators Maynard, Rucker and Karnes on February 12, calls for the US Congress to ‘reopen public lands’ in West Virginia to off-highway vehicle recreation and logging in national forests. Considering logging operations are alive and well in our state’s national forests, this statement is a bit of a head scratcher for some. Regarding access to off-highway vehicles, the resolution does not mention what kind of public lands designation(s). Regardless, many conservationists are concerned at the thought of opening up public lands to off-highway vehicle recreation. Check out this opinion piece by John McCoy in the Charleston Gazette-Mail to read more.

Senate Bill 452, introduced by Senator Maynard on February 25, calls for the WV Development Office to “develop a comprehensive and strategic plan for the support and development of off-highway vehicle recreation across the state.” This would apply to tracts of land of 1,000 acres or more. As stated in the bill, the plan shall consider all forms of outdoor recreation, including pop-up car camping, also known as “self-propelled and overland recreation.” The bill has been referred to the Committee on Economic Development.

Proposed Gauley Healthy Forest Restoration Project

A project of particular concern for many is the proposed Gauley Healthy Forest Restoration Project in the Monongahela National Forest. Various public lands stakeholders are under the strong impression that this project is misusing the categorical exclusion exception, which removes the requirements for an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. This is used to “streamline” the process for Forest Service projects and requires less paperwork, time, and resources.

While this makes the process easier for the agency, it provides the public with less information on projects. To learn more, check out a recent edition of the Highlands Voice. Our partners at Friends of Blackwater have developed an action alert, requesting an environmental assessment and public comment period.

West Virginians for Public Lands Endorser Spotlight

Shout out to a couple of our newest endorsers from the Mineral/Hampshire County region, Melissa W Photography and Farmer’s Daughter Market & Butcher.

Melissa is a very talented lifelong West Virginian who loves the great outdoors. She offers affordable photography for (indoor & outdoor) events, including weddings, portraits, families, children, sports, and more. Melissa and her family are some of the very best people you will find.

Kate and Pete (pictured on the left) with Farmer’s Daughter have created such an amazing little slice of heaven in Capon Bridge. If you are looking for the best sandwich of your life, stop here. An article about the shop was in the Washington Post!

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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