West Virginians for Public Lands

February 2024

Legislature in Session: Updates on Bills and Key Dates

Public Lands bills are already moving in the West Virginia Legislature. 

  • The Rail Trails bill (SB 196, as amended) cleans up language about rail trails. It’s passed the Senate and will now be considered by the House Committee on Finance.
  • WV Recreational Trails Development Act (SB 426) requires the Department of Transportation to create non-motorized recreation trails. The Senate has approved this bill – and the House Government Operations Committee will consider it next.

We think these are good bills – promoting recreation with nature-based, non-motorized recreation.

The “Bridge Bill” (SB 425) is not moving. This bill requires the Department of Highways to install river access opportunities at any new public bridge construction or major renovation.

Key Dates:

  • February 13 – Last day to introduce a bill in the House of Delegates.
  • February 19 – Last day to introduce a bill in the Senate.

We’re watching these key dates to see if any additional public lands bills are filed by the deadlines.

The State Capitol on the first day of session – January 10.

Advocacy Works – Get Involved!

We asked you to tell your representatives at the start of the session that you love WV’s Wild and Wonderful Public lands just the way they are. You responded! Legislators received over 530 messages directly from constituents asking them to protect our State Parks, Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, and Rail Trails. It’s not too late to contact your Delegate and two Senators. Use this link and send your message today!

Want to build your advocacy skills? Join environmental and conservation partners at “Environmental Day” at the legislature on February 13, 2024. Register now! You’ll be provided with talking points and assistance setting up meetings with your legislators.

Wanna learn more about the bills this session? WV E-Council’s lobbyists provided up-to-the minute information for E-Day about the pending bills we support, and what to say about each bill to your representative. Check out this important information HERE.

Need some advocacy pointers? Helpful hints are provided by WV Environmental Council, WV Trails, and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Be the change in the Mountain State!

Community Science and Public Health Threatened

HB 5018 is moving through the legislative process. This bill prohibits the WV Department of Environmental Protection from considering data collected from community-based air monitoring programs from being considered in DEP decisions or even in court actions. DEP simply does not have enough air monitoring stations throughout the Mountain State. Community science bridges the gap and makes sure that DEP has data from many sources about local air quality. HB 5018 would make DEP less effective in doing its job and undercut our collective ability to actively contribute to the improvement of conditions where we live. The bill also may be unconstitutional – telling courts what evidence they may or may not consider. Media Coverage of West Virginians speaking to the legislature about this problematic bill is HERE and HERE. The bill has passed the House. Stay tuned for updates to let Senators know why you want them to oppose this bill.

Improved Fluid Mineral Leasing & Bonding Rules Near Final Approval

In September 2023, we asked you to support new rules to protect our federal lands. You responded: 588 of you sent comments in support of the Department of Interior (DOI) revised rules for oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

The picture shows a rusted, dented abandoned storage tank for a non-producing well on public lands. The Rule will avoid this situation by increasing bonding requirements, adjusting reclamation costs for inflation, and ending costly non-competitive leasing. New fees paid by applicants will reflect actual costs. These rules are important in West Virginia, too. We enjoy the crown jewel of public lands, the Mon Forest, and America’s newest National Park! West Virginians love our clean, cool Mon Forest Headwaters. All will be protected by the new rule.

The Rule is now at the White House for final review. WVPL will be contacting officials urging quick approval and implementation. You can find out more about this process by clicking on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and looking under DOI for the Fluid Mineral Leasing and Leasing Process Rule.

An abandoned well in Kanawha State Forest.

Water, Water Everywhere: The WV Flatwater Trails System

WV Water Trails map published in the 2024 WVNDR Fishing Regulation Summary

West Virginia now has 14 recognized flatwater trails – with three more trails in the works. From the Upper Ohio River, to the Tug Fork River in the South, to the Cacapon River in the Eastern panhandle, Flatwater trails offer calm waters for boating, kayaking, and fishing. The WV Legislature created the Flatwater Trails Commission in 2020 to coordinate existing trails, create new trails, implement designation standards to be recognized as a flatwater trail, and to keep West Virginians and visitors informed about flat water trails in the Mountain State. The Coal River Group is one of the most active flatwater groups.

Many flatwater trail groups spend time cleaning their river and improving water quality. Flatwater groups and state officials recently make presentations to the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation about successes and procedures to create new flatwater trails. Speakers mentioned the need for funding for promotion and mapping. We suggest additional funding be made available for matching grant requirements and other expenses associated with creating new flatwater trails for all to enjoy.

Quick Takes on Our Public Lands News & How to Get Involved!

Iconic View of Glade Grist Mill in Babcock State Park 

In addition to bills in the WV Legislature, a lot is going on in our Wild Wonderful public lands. Here’s some quick takes of important news and opportunities to get involved:

Our friends at Our Parks Too! let us know about the free lifetime access to national parks and federal lands for people with mental and physical disabilities. You can request your access. Learn more HERE. Remember, public lands are for everyone!

The Revised Rural Outdoor Recreation and Development Toolkit has just been released. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable has a variety of information about outdoor recreation and its benefits. Check out the special report with state-specific information: West Virginia’s section begins on page 235.

EXPLORE Act: The “Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act” is moving in the U.S. House of Representatives. It passed the House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously on January 17, 2024. With bipartisan support, EXPLORE ACT will address access, modernize the user experience, and otherwise enhance our enjoyment of federal public lands. Here’s the BILL HR 6492 to read.

Submission to our “Create the Mon” Digital Gallery by Abigail Montgomery. (@_abimontg on Instagram.)

Forest as Art: In case you missed it, be sure to check out the “Create the Mon” online art gallery!

Tell the Department of Natural Resources what you think should be in your WV State Parks and other state public lands by completing the survey. Please do this today, if you haven’t already, so that your voice is heard.

Mon Forest Headwaters are the drinking source for 9% of the United States. Learn more about how the Forest Service has designated these headwaters, and current policy concerns. Take the survey.

Support our public lands: West Virginians for Public Lands (WVPL) believes that West Virginia public lands, waters, and the wildlife that inhabit them are intrinsically valuable, and these special areas should be preserved. Is this something that you believe in too? We’d love you, your business, or your organization to be a part of this vision. Sign up HERE or click the button below.

Public Lands on Social Be sure and tag WVPL on your pictures! Use #wvpubliclands for any local, state, or national public land; and use #monforestheadwaters when you enjoy a Mon Forest headwater. Check us out here:

FACEBOOK: wvpubliclands

X (Twitter): @WV4PublicLands

Instagram: wvpubliclands

Meet Your Public Lands: Old Growth Forest in Cathedral SP

Old Growth Forests are essential for healthy forest ecosystems and for the carbon storage benefits that 100-year-old and older trees provide! The Biden Administration has issued an Executive Order to the US Forest Service (USFS) and other agencies to define and inventory mature and old growth trees; and the Forest Service proposes to amend ALL 128 Forest Plans to protect older and old growth forests. The USFS will soon issue information about an Environmental Impact Statement and on opportunity for public comment. We’ll keep you posted.

You don’t have to wait to see conserved old growth forest. Visit Cathedral State Park the Mountain State’s largest state old growth forest – and one of the largest stands of old growth hemlocks. Cathedral is small – only 133 acres with 3 miles of hiking trails – but important for preserving special resources and naturally storing carbon.

Cathedral State Park is located at 12 Cathedral Park Drive, Aurora, WV 26705.

Old growth forests conserved in Cathedral State Park. Photo by Tim Kiser.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email