By John McFerrin

Ginny the Flying Squirrel over Blackwater Canyon

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reversed a lower court and kicked the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus to Latin scholars) off the list of endangered species. Over the last five years the squirrel has been added to or taken off the list three times.

A little history

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first placed the West Virginia northern flying squirrel on the endangered species list as an endangered species on July 1, 1985. At the time, the threats identified included: species rarity; habitat loss; human disturbance; and competition with, and transfer of, a lethal parasite from the more common southern flying squirrel.

In 1990, the Fish and Wildlife Service did a recovery plan covering the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. The recovery plan is a series of steps that the agency is supposed to take to help the species recover to the point that it can safely be taken off the endangered species list. If things went well, then the squirrel would first be moved to the less protective “threatened” listing. If things continued to go well, then it would be removed from Endangered Species Act protection altogether.

The historic range of the Squirrel is believed to correspond roughly to the distribution of old-growth red spruce and northern hardwood forests that existed prior to the extensive logging and accompanying fires that occurred at the turn of the 20th century in the Allegheny Highlands, a section of the Appalachian Mountains extending into West Virginia and Virginia. This historic range encompassed an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 acres of old-growth red spruce forests.

This habitat was important in both the decision to put the squirrel on the list and in the recovery plan. It got on the endangered species list in part because its original habitat had changed so that it was restricted to isolated areas at high elevations separated by vast stretches of unsuitable habitat. Its remaining habitat was under pressure from human disturbance such as logging and development of skiing or other recreational activities.

In the recovery plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed not to delist the squirrel until it had determined that the existence of the high elevation forests on which the squirrels depend is not itself threatened by introduced pests, such as the balsam wooly adelgid or by environmental pollutants, such as acid precipitation or toxic substance contamination.

In 2008 the Fish and Wildlife Service took the squirrel off the endangered species list. (In the jargon of the agency, it “de-listed” the squirrel.). At the time, it said that the recovery plan has been sufficiently successful that the squirrel could be removed from the list. The delisting meant that the squirrel would have to continue to survive as best it can without the special protections available to species which are on the endangered species list.

In kicking the squirrel off the list, the Fish and Wildlife Service did not contend that it had followed the recovery plan. The plan had specific goals and requirements for distribution of the squirrel, requirements that had not been met. Instead, it said that it had followed the general intent of the recovery plan and that the squirrel appeared to be holding its own.

In March, 2011, the United States District Court reversed the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Court held that following the intent of the original recovery plan was not enough. It is not sufficient to generally follow plan. The Endangered Species Act specifically calls for a plan setting out what the agency intends to do and how it will measure results. If it wants to change the plan or otherwise not follow the plan, the agency must announce that it is changing the plan and then follow a revised plan.

Neither is it sufficient, the Court ruled, for the species to hold its own. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is that species thrive, not just slow down on its road to extinction.

What just happened

In August, 2012, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, effectively reinstating the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to kick the squirrel off the list. The decision turned largely on the question of what a recovery plan really is. The District Court had held that a recovery plan had to be followed before a species could be delisted. If the Fish and Wildlife Service changed its mind and thought that a different recovery plan would work better, it could change the plan but so long as it was in place the Fish and Wildlife Service could not kick a species off the list without following it.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, on the other hand, said that the plan was not binding. Even if it never followed the plan, it could still delist a species if it thought it had made a recovery.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Fish and Wildlife Service. In federal courts it is the practice (backed up by legal precedent) to defer to the interpretations of statutes and regulations by the agency. If an agency has always taken the position that a regulation means one thing, a court will adopt that interpretation unless there is some language in the statute or regulation to the contrary.

Under this approach, if the Fish and Wildlife Service thinks that recovery plans are guides, not mandates, then the Court will assume that this is the correct interpretation of the law.

There was a dissenting opinion. One of the three judges thought that the Fish and Wildlife Service was required by law to follow the recovery plan before delisting the squirrel. She also noted that the Fish and Wildlife Service relied upon data that showed that the squirrel was “persisting”, meaning that it was still here, not yet extinct. She thought that the law required that it not just persist but recover.

Vocabulary lesson of the day

Even if they are called flying squirrels, they don’t actually fly. They stretch out the folds of skin that stretch from front legs to hind legs and glide. These folds are called the patagia, from the Latin patigium, meaning the border of a tunic. The singular form was adopted directly from the Latin as the singular patagium; patagia is the plural form.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Federal Government,The Highlands Voice |


By Frank Young

Year old and longer predictions that the nearly 300 miles long PATH (Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline) project was dead or dying were not exaggerations. In late August the thirteen state regional electrical grid operator PJM- often referred to as an energy “cartel”- officially cancelled its demand that its member companies American Electric Power (AEP) and First Energy (formerly Allegheny Energy) construct a three-state, 765 Kilovolt electricity transmission line across West Virginia, through Virginia, and into Maryland. PATH was quietly cancelled simply by an August 28th PJM internal letter.

The PJM Board of Managers terminated the PATH project and removed it from the planning process, effective immediately. In a letter to PJM’s Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee, PJM Planning Vice President Steve Herling said that an analysis shows that “reliability drivers no longer exist for the project.”

Herling’s brief letter continued, saying that, “The analyses incorporated the continued trends of decreasing customer load growth, increasing participation in demand response programs and the recent commitment of new generating capacity in eastern PJM”

In other words, and as project opponents have said all along during the course of the three year unsuccessful attempt to get PATH permitted by state regulatory commissions in three states, PJM now admits that the originally claimed needs for such a 200 feet tall and three hundred miles long monstrosity “no longer exist.”

After PJM placed the PATH project in “abeyance” in March, 2011, the project’s many opponents declared then that the estimated $2.2 billion dollar project was “dead”. The llate August PJM announcement is the official declaration that PATH is dead. AEP and First energy cannot fight for continuation the project without the PJM system’s support.

In West Virginia, the PATH case at the WV Public Service Commission (WVPSC) generated approximately 225 interveners (officials parties to a case) against PATH- several times more interveners than had any other case in WVPSC history.

But what does it mean when a giant electrical power transmission project is declared “dead”. The adage that, “You can’t take it with you” apparently does not apply to such projects.

Although the line will not be built, its developers claim to have incurred about $225 million in early project expenses- advertising costs, legal fees, property easement costs, etc. A large and effective citizen group opposing Path- called StopPATH WV- has gotten involved in the process that will decide how much of that $225 million will be allocated to electricity ratepayers.

According to StopPATH WV member and leader Keryn Newman, by the end of 2012 PATH will have already collected more than $95 million from PJM region ratepayers since PATH was awarded a 12.4 percent “incentive return on equity” authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2008.

Reportedly the PATH partners also may be allowed to recover an additional $130 million in capital investment in the project, if they convince FERC that they had no fault in the abandonment of the project and that all expenditures were prudently incurred. “The PATH project could end up costing electric consumers nearly a quarter billion dollars by the time it’s all said and done,” Newman said.

So while PATH is dead, its memory lives on in the pocket books of ratepayers, and in the bank accounts and financial statements of AEP and First energy.


Written by Administrator in: Energy,Environment,The Highlands Voice |


The Monongahela National Forest, Potomac Highlands Cooperative Weed and Pest Management Area (CWMPA), and the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) joined forces to sponsor the fourth annual “Garlic Mustard Challenge.” These partners wanted to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about nonnative invasive species while making a difference in the forests across their home states.

Garlic mustard has gained much attention in recent years for its ability to rapidly invade wooded habitats from disturbed areas. The plant threatens the abundant wildflowers and diverse forest ecosystem of West Virginia.

After weeks of searching, pulling, and bagging, the results are in for the 2012 Garlic Mustard Challenge and they are amazing! We absolutely destroyed our goal of pulling 35,000 pounds of garlic mustard. Volunteers from across Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia pulled 160,665 pounds of garlic mustard from public lands. Additionally, over 5,335 volunteer hours were logged equaling around $ 116,250 that local governments, organizations, and private landowners saved in not having to hire field crews to remove garlic mustard (hourly rate based on 2011 Independent Sector Rate). On the Monongahela National Forest, volunteers pulled more than 15,558 pounds of garlic mustard and logged over 2,607 volunteer hours! That’s almost half of the total logged volunteer hours! “Our goal couldn’t have been reached without the help of each and every one of our volunteers pulling together and the successful collaboration of our partners,” said Cynthia Sandeno, Ecologist of the Monongahela National Forest.

Students from Petersburg Elementary School pulled over 10,000 pounds of garlic mustard

“We want to congratulate everyone on their hard work and commitment to stopping the spread of garlic mustard and protecting our native habitats and wildlife,” said Rebecca Urbancyzk, AmeriCorps Volunteer. “Whether you were pulling in your own back yard, telling your neighbor about garlic mustard, teaching in classrooms, or leading your own event, we thank you.”

This year, our individual achievement award goes to Benjamin Reed who pulled 2,485 pounds of garlic mustard across the state of Ohio! Way to go, Benjamin! For this incredible effort, the Monongahela National Forest, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, and Potomac Highlands CWPMA are proud to award him with the

“2012 MVP – Most Valuable Puller Award.” The overall winner of this year’s competition was the Chicago Botanic Garden who bagged a total of 36,150 pounds of garlic mustard!

We would like to give a special thanks to the generous partners and sponsors for their great prizes and contributions including: AFHA, American Mountain Theater, Applebee’s, All Creatures Great and Small, Brewstel: Microbrewery and Hostel, Cooper and Preston, PLLC., George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Good Energy Foods, Judy’s Drug, Kroger, Mainline Books, MeeMee’z Café and Cakes, Peebles, Pepsi Bottling Company, Performance Chevrolet- Parsons, Potomac Highlands CWPMA, Rite Aid-Parsons, Seneca Caverns, Sheetz-Parsons, Snowshoe Mountain, SouthSide Depot, Theatre West

Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice |


With all the talk about wind power in the Voice lately and the ongoing stories about coal and gas, now might be a time to consider that there may be yet another potential source of energy in West Virginia. This was submitted by Rupert Cutler, who spotted it in the Sierran. Click on image for larger view.

Written by Administrator in: Energy,Environment,The Highlands Voice |


Decomposers are endlessly interesting organisms. Some are beautiful, mysterious, tasty, sometimes hallucinogenic, and sometimes lethal. In the story book Elephant King, died from eating a bad mushroom. Hence, the co-existing presence of respect and of wonder.

Ponder the miraculous mycelium. Mycelia forms an underground, interwoven fabric of cells creating and sustaining a food web that makes life flourish. They gather a nutritious flow of soil water to plant root hairs. They provide nutrients as well as information. The largest living thing in the U.S. may be the interconnected fungus complex under parts of California, Oregon, and Washington. The network is highly resilient and adaptive. Mycelia respond to, protect, and enhance the health of the entire forest community. It protects the forest by breaking down both woody and animal debris, even hydro-carbon molecules, into their nontoxic elemental compounds. It nourishes soil life and that of the forest floor, interacting with worms, mites, many insects and larger forms like shrews, flying squirrels, etc.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is found in the national and state parks and forests of West Virginia., protecting wild lands from the trampling footprint of man. We question and challenge the stewardship of supposedly responsible agencies. We are monitoring and preventing unnecessary disturbance on fragile recovering watersheds and protect stream structure and water quality.

Like Mycelia, the Highlands Conservancy is much more than you can see. It is a network that exchanges information and focuses the energies of many people to protect our mountains, our forests, our streams, and our communities from destruction and desecration. We do this by organizing, networking, by mediating, by facilitating, and by litigating when necessary – by informing and inspiring citizens. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy understands the mechanisms of man and nature. Join and experience that common energy that rises up out of the fertile earth whenever necessary, like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Note: The idea, the metaphor, and the original writing were by Ernie Reed of Heartwood. Don Gasper adapted it so that the comparison applies to the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy as well.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice |


By Don Gasper

What happened?

One day from about 1 pm to 2 pm in Oct. 2011 watched a strange gathering of perhaps two hundred Dragon Flies zipping around continually in my side yard. They might have all been one size, with about a 4” wing span, and perhaps bluish-cast. They all seemed to fly at half speed, yet a little faster as they neared the 50’x50’ center of the group. This did not shift for the 2+ hours they zipped around my yard. Many came within 4’ of me as I stood 30’ from the 50’ area. I stood about 7’ from my house. All this took place in my yard that was sunny and about 50°F from 2 to 4 PM. This side yard is about 400’ long and 100’ wide. They continued this fast flight, using a great, great amount of energy. None stopped. None even hovered.

There was no coupling. It was amazing to me there were no collisions. Even sudden avoidances were not needed, though in the 50’ area often 50 were zipping within 1’ of one another. They would fly about 200’ out into the street in front and in a minute return. Similarly they would fly 200’ to the back yard and turn around.

My yard is 4 city blocks from the 100’ wide Buckhannon River.

There are no lakes or ponds. I don’t know where they came from or where they went.


Dragonflies are predators of insects such as gnats and mosquitoes although not (fortunately) of Gaspers or other humans. They don’t sting and eat annoying stuff so they are good to have around.

There are possible reasons for their swarming. Some species of dragonflies do migrate. Some swarms may be groups of migrating dragonflies.

It could also be no more than a dragonfly buffet. There may be swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, or midges which draw swarms of dragonflies to prey upon them. The prey is small enough to be invisible to humans but the swarming dragonflies are readily apparent.

A 1998 paper in “American Midland Naturalist offers “summaries what is known about this evolving topic. They reviewed particularly 3 observations-over one million dragonflies were noted in the Chicago area in 1992; one at Cape May with 400,000 in 1992, fewer; and 200,000 estimated in Florida in 1993. All sighted in September.

They appeared after cold front. Most were Green Darners, (Somewhat like locust migration). A million in a river of dragon flies would blacken the sky. Nothing like this has been observed. This appears to be restricted to the East United States. They travel along coast lines, presumably for orientation. Not all dragonfly species migrate-much-much is unknown—The Chicago swarm contained a few of 6 other species. There are 18 species in the U.S.

It is supposed that migratory dragonflies fly to Central America, mate, and their offspring return north in the spring but this has not been conspicuous or noted

Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice |


Are you worried about how peak oil and climate change will affect your life? Do you want to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle? Do you want to spend less time stuck in traffic and more time stuck in the garden?

The Whippoorwill Festival is a four day festival in mid-July near Berea, Kentucky (just south of Lexington off Interstate 75) that seeks to promote sustainable living by sharing earth-friendly living skills with one another in a positive, healthy, family-friendly atmosphere.

The Whippoorwill Festival, Thursday July 12 through Sunday July 15 celebrates Kentucky’s Appalachian heritage while helping prepare our minds and bodies for a future world of climate change and a diminished supply of fossil fuels. The festival is a low-cost event ($20 per person per day) with simultaneous workshops, tent camping, healthy, home-cooked meals, guest speakers, plus old-time and mountain music, dancing, and story-telling in the evenings.

Many Whippoorwill workshops are led by experts with years of skills and knowledge in fields such as cob construction, forest ecology and wild mushroom identification. In order to encourage leadership development in Appalachia, other workshops such as hide tanning, primitive nutrition, fermentation, and salamanders are led by young people and relative novices. Discussion groups on topics such as voluntary simplicity, deep ecology and quantum physics allow participants to share their thoughts and experiences with each other in an informal atmosphere.

In addition, local craft workers, sustainable businesses, and non-profit organizations will have booths and tables at the festival to promote their issues and their earth-friendly businesses.

Berea has a long and strong tradition of Appalachian craftsmanship that is well known in Kentucky, but the Whippoorwill Festival broadens the market for these craftspeople by attracting attendees from Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia.

In the spirit of the book “Last Child in the Woods,” the Whippoorwill Festival encourages kids at the festival to play outdoors. The festival offers free admission to children 16 and under. The facility for the festival, HomeGrown HideAways, has a nice clean creek with woods and trails on the property. Unstructured activities for children, such as playing in the creek, building dams, and climbing trees are encouraged. There is also a lake nearby.

In the evening, the Reel World String Band will play acoustic and mountain favorites from their 30 years together. Other bands include Cincinnati’s terrific young trio The Tillers, Berea’s favorite harmonizing threesome Sugar Tree and an excellent singer/ songwriter from Knoxville, Jack Herranen. Appalatin, from Louisville is a fusion of Latin and Appalachian folk music from the band member’s homelands in Central America, the Andes and Appalachia.

Food for the festival will be prepared by the Knoxville chapter Food Not Bombs, a national volunteer collective that prepares dishes using donated and surplus food. There is no cost for meals but donations to Food Not Bombs are gratefully accepted.

Confirmed workshops for the 2012 Whippoorwill Festival:

Making Cool Stuff out of Junk – Growing Herbs – Eco-friendly Rain Barrels – Dendrology (Tree Identification) Walk – Egret’s Cove Intentional Community Tour – Forest Ecology – Earth Ovens Field Trip – Mushroom Innoculation & Cultivation – Primitive Nutrition – Hobo Stoves – Basic Bicycle Maintenance -Herbal First Aid – Gasifier Stoves and Biochar – Dumpstering Discussion Group – Deepening our Connections/Deep Ecology – Mushroom Wildcrafting and Foraging – Fruit Trees – Home Weatherization – “How To Survive Without a Salary” Discussion Group – Stick Tag – Natural Building – Waste Veggie Oil Diesel Auto Conversion – Cob Construction – Backyard Chickens – Forest Gardening – Fire Spinning/Poi – Humanure and Composting Toilets – Fermenting Kim Che and Sauerkraut – Rocket Stoves – Repairing Cross Cut Saws – Old Time Ballad Singing – Saving Your Trees – Deer Processing – Salamanders – Voluntary Simplicity Discussion Group – Weeds – Anarchy Discussion Group – Pirate Radio – Quantum Physics – Songwriting Circle – Edible Wild Mushrooms – Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics – Movement Medicine – Unjobbing: Making Your Passion Your Livelihood – Hula Hoop Dance – Kids Activities – 3 Ways to Make Rag Rugs – Roots and Non-Timber Forest Products – Eco-Art – How to Play the Banjo – Hide Tanning – Walk: Reading the Landscape/Developing Your Natural Senses – Urban Gardening/Seedleaf – Auto Roadside Emergency Repairs That Anyone Can Do – Playing Native American Flute – Worm Composting – Creating Group Theater Performances – Silkscreening – Breadmaking – Making Salve from Woodland Herbs – Salamander Springs Farm Permaculture Tour – Tarpology – Friction Fire (making fire with primitive tools) – Fiber Arts/Hat Felting – Reclaiming the Thrift Store Wool Sweater – Cooking Over an Open Fire – Indian Cooking The festival website is and the event is co-sponsored by the Bluegrass Sierra Club, Kentucky Heartwood, Mountain Justice, Sustainable Berea, and the Berea Festival of Learnshops. A complete schedule for the festival is at the website. We hope to see you there!


Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice |

Scientists Locate Natural “Strongholds” that Could Protect Nature in the Face of Climate Change

Work continues to locate more climate-resilient landscapes across the United States

A new study by The Nature Conservancy has identified a series of landscapes across the American Northeast and southeastern Canada that are predicted to withstand the growing impacts of climate change and help ensure nature’s survival.

As droughts, rising temperatures and other climate impacts threaten to destabilize natural areas across the United States and around the world, scientists believe these resilient landscapes will be strong enough to continue providing habitat to a wide variety of plants and animals while also serving as sources of clean drinking water, fertile soils and other important services people rely upon for survival. The authors of the study, however, warned that these natural strongholds must be protected from damaging development, pollution and other negative actions, or they could lose their ability to shield nature from climate impacts.

Read more….

Written by Administrator in: Environment |

Good Bridge honors greenspace advocate

A SMALL, METAL PLAQUE stands on a curved metal rod on the W.Va. 7 side of the bridge crossing Deckers Creek at Marilla Park. It notes that this is the Good Bridge, named for Morgantown greenspace advocate Greg Good.

Good, now director of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, spent 25 years as a history professor at WVU.

While his research/classroom specialty is the history of geophysics, his off-campus specialty while here was as an advocate of parks, walking trails and community greenspace.

He was a key member and officer of the Mon Valley Greenspace Coalition, and was involved with the acquisition of Dorsey’s Knob and bringing Whitemoore Park back to life.

In 2003, Morgantown City Council decided to recognize his efforts by naming the bridge to Marilla Park for him.

The Dominion Post’s story of that event notes:

“There’s seldom a time when talking of any area trail project when Greg Good’s name doesn’t surface in some fashion. That’s usually because Good is pivotal to that particular project, or is at least somewhere near its core.

The naming of the pedestrian bridge spanning Deckers Creek and connecting the Deckers Creek Trail to Marilla Park as the Good Bridge is more than just symbolic.

“Not only had Good worked to make the vital connection a reality, he engaged in similar efforts throughout the greater Morgantown area to create other links to build a wholly interconnected trail system blanketing the region.

“For the past several years he’s also been at the head of the local Greenspace Coalition, which he helped form. He continued through that organization toward his vision of an entirely walkable community.”

In 1998, Good was one of three people honored with that year’s Community Star Awards. At the time, he offered a challenge:

“We need to build the tools that will let us develop, while moving simultaneously toward a greener future. We need a Mon Valley Land Trust, to preserve urban green spaces, farmlands and historical heritage; a partner in state government, a regional, interjurisdictional Greenways and Open Space Commission.”

Good left Morgantown in December 2008 for his new job in Washington, D.C.

His goal for the center “is to communicate with the broadest possible audience to encourage public understanding of science and its roles in society.”

EVELYN RYAN researches and writes this column. If you would like to suggest a subject for this column, e-mail your suggestion to newsroom@dominion ? .

Written by Administrator in: Environment |

Please Support LWCF in Transportation Package

To West Virginia Highlands Conservancy:


As a conservation advocate in West Virginia, you know all too well the importance of safeguarding treasured places from development. One of our big priorities here at Environment America has been advocating for full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)- a 48 year old program that uses some of the royalties from offshore drilling to fund national and local parks and recreation projects, and preserves natural areas across the country.  West Virginia has received approximately $221 million over the past four decades, protecting places such as the New River Gorge National River and the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.  Unfortunately, year after year, Congress breaks its commitment to conserving essential land and waterways and diverts most of these funds.


Right now, we have what maybe the best opportunity we’ll have this year to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Funds is guaranteed at least $700 million for the next two years. Please consider signing your organization onto this statement by the end of next week so that we can show Congress how important it is to our local communities that LWCF be included in the final Transportation bill this year.


We urge your organization to not only sign onto the statement, but also encourage you to pass it along to the network of partners groups you work with and encourage them to sign on as well.  In this way, we can reach more and more people like you across the country who understand how important LWCF is.


If you have questions or would like to sign the statement, please email me back or contact Lindsey Levick at The Wilderness Society ( The letter is included below for your consideration.


Thanks for your help,

Kate Dylewsky

Preservation Assistant

Environment America

218 D St. SE, 2nd floor

(202) 683-1250

Actions for Spring 2012

Follow us on Twitter: @lwcfcoalition 

Please Support LWCF in the Transportation Bill Debate

Urge your member to include LWCF in the final package-

Click here for talking points! or

Also: Sign Your Organization onto the:

Statement of Support for LWCF!!

(Click HERE for downloading and sharing the statement)

Statement can also be found below

Email to sign on!

Senate Transportation Bill PASSES with LWCF Amendment!! Click here for Printable Factsheet on Transportation Bill

Please Support LWCF in Transportation Package:

Sign-On Statement

   Check out the LWCF Projects in the Presidents FY13 Budget, click below:

As a broad coalition of sportsmen, business, recreation, veterans, historic preservation and conservation leaders concerned with America’s outdoor heritage, we express our strong support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provision included in the Senate-passed Transportation bill.  This provision, which was approved on the Senate floor with an overwhelming 76 bipartisan votes, directly addresses several of the most urgent conservation, access and funding problems facing American hunters and anglers, outdoor businesses, and recreationists today at the same time that it provides for state and local recreation projects, working forest and ranching easements and protection of our unique American history.  As the Transportation conference between the House and Senate proceeds, we strongly urge that the LWCF amendment passed in the Senate is included in the final legislation.

LWCF represents a promise that was made to the American people almost 50 years ago to take the proceeds from natural resource development in our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and invest a small portion of those dollars in conservation and outdoor recreation.  It is an incredibly successful bipartisan program that, in its nearly five decades of existence, has touched all fifty states and nearly every county in America.  Despite that success, however, the central promise of LWCF has remained largely unfulfilled– almost every year in its half-century of existence, only about one-third of LWCF’s authorized funding has actually been directed to its intended conservation purpose.  Every part of the LWCF program is oversubscribed, with the demand for state and local recreational needs, access for sportsmen, working lands opportunities and conservation driven by strong local support far exceeding the funds that have been available.

The Senate-passed amendment represents a critical opportunity to begin addressing the backlog of unmet needs this diversion has created, and build a solid base of state, local and national recreation as well as conservation funding in the short-term while we continue working toward a permanent fix.  As a reminder:

  • LWCF is already paid for – without using a single taxpayer dollar.  Every year, $900 million is deposited into LWCF from the many billions of dollars the Treasury collects from offshore oil drilling and other federal energy revenue sources.  Congress created LWCF with a simple idea in mind: when we sell oil and gas that belongs to all Americans, at least a small portion of the proceeds should be reinvested in something of lasting value for us all.  NO tax dollars or other general revenues are used for LWCF. 
  • The Senate LWCF Provision Funds Only Willing-Seller Conservation.   The Senate language guarantees that any land purchase under the bill – as is typically the case for LWCF purchases – will be from willing sellers.  Across America, landowners needing to sell their properties want to see those lands conserved for public use.  Providing LWCF funds honors their property rights as willing sellers, including their rights to fair compensation, and their public-spirited intent as landowners.  The Senate language explicitly ensures that property rights will be respected and that landowners will be treated fairly.
  • The LWCF Provision Expands Recreation Access for Hunting, Fishing, and Other Public Use.  LWCF is essential to make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are limited or precluded.  Language in the Senate bill that is strongly supported by sportsmen ensures a sustained commitment to resolving access issues long after the bill’s two-year term.  The Senate LWCF provision opens more land to the public.
  • LWCF also provides critical funding to states for state and local park needs as well as funding for the Forest Legacy Program, which allows for working lands easements keeping jobs in the woods throughout the country.

• LWCF supports a vibrant and important part of our nation’s economy.  The Senate-passed amendment ensures continued investments in the economic asset that our federal, state and local public lands represent.   The parks, trails, forests, wildlife refuges, battlefields, historic sites, and working lands sustained by LWCF funding support an outdoor recreation and tourism sector that contributes a total of $1.06 trillion annually to the American economy, supporting 9.4 million jobs (1 out of every 15 jobs in the U.S.).

We are well aware that difficult choices must be made in this time of fiscal austerity.  As we measure those choices based on their effects on America’s people, communities, and economy, the need for sustained investments through LWCF is clear.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund has long been supported in a bipartisan fashion with important oversight provided by Congress through the Appropriations Committees.  As Congress considers how best to meet our nation’s infrastructure needs, we urge inclusion of the LWCF provision in the final transportation bill as an historic step forward to provide this country with the critical recreation infrastructure necessary for strong economic growth.

National Park Service FY13 LWCF Projects

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service FY13 LWCF Projects

Forest Service FY 13 LWCF Projects

Forest Legacy FY13 LWCF Projects

Collaborative Landscape Planning Projects FY 13

Land and Water Conservation Fund- National Park Service – 2011 Annual Report

 New! LWCF Activist Plan!

Click here for Economic Benefits and Outdoor Recreation Talking Points for LWCF

FY13 Senate Dear Colleague (Did Your Member Sign-On?)

FY13 House Dear Colleague (Did Your Member Sign-On?)

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Federal Government,Public Lands |

Coal Is in decline, but Is the environment cleaner?

There is a very telling line from an Associated Press article published earlier this week. According to the story “the share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40 percent for the year, its lowest level since World War II. Four years ago, it was 50 percent. By the end of this decade, it is likely to be near 30 percent.”

Declining use of coal can be attributed to a number of reasons — environmental regulations, geography, a shirking domestic market and increased use of natural gas.


Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Mining Matters |


Formally, this event was billed as the “Central Appalachian Women’s Tribunal on Climate Justice,” and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was one of the co-sponsors. The day’s program stated that the aim was to be “Raising the voices of grassroots women… in the United States, and around the world; exposing the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and its role in climate chaos. Event presenters included the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Loretto Community at the United Nations. The Loretto Community was founded in 1812 by two women who taught children in Kentucky and wished to expand their spiritual, environmental, and educational outreach. Similar gender and climate justice tribunals have taken place in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The tribunal planned to highlight how women living in persistent poverty areas and impoverished communities are being affected by climate-related issues.

The audience included women of all ages, one 6 weeks old, some 7 decades older. It was especially gratifying to meet a group of enthusiastic students from Xavier University.

The format was that of a legal proceeding, with “jurists” listening to testimony in four “cases” by “witnesses,” and “experts”. WVHC’s mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, presented expert testimony in the case of “Damages to Air, Land, and Water.” Actually, the vital nature of clean water was stressed by all participants in each of the cases. Following each presentation the jurists made responses.

WVHC’s mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, presented expert testimony

The expert testimonies were detailed yet succinct and the stories told by the witnesses were heartfelt and often heartbreaking. Many attendees were moved to tears. One jurist termed the effects of mountaintop removal mining as “climate Holocaust.”

Near the end of the session, the jurists read a list of recommendations they’d compiled based on the testimony they’d heard. These recommendations will be taken to a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro next month. There are also plans to present the list to women in positions of power here in this nation.

Just after the session ended word came that sponsors of the tribunal had won a coveted spot as an officially recognized event as part of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June. Results of this and other women’s group tribunals on issues around the globe will be part of that presentation.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice |

“Best Fracking Practices” Demanded by Investors Controlling $1 Trillion Shares

The Environment News Service has distributed the following story, which is excerpted below:

Institutional investors in the United States, Europe and Australia with nearly $1 trillion in assets under management have united to support a set of best practices for the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to harvest natural gas.

Boston Common Asset Management, the Investor Environmental Health Network and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility announced Wednesday that 55 major investors are part of their growing coalition seeking industry action to reduce and disclose all chemicals used in fracking, among other practices.

Steven Heim, managing director and director of Boston Common’s environmental, social and governance research and shareholder engagement division, said, “Assuming that hydraulic fracturing is going to continue to be used in some form, investors need to have greater certainty in the marketplace as to industry practices and government regulation. Currently there is no such certainty and that is really why investors are speaking up.”  In December 2011, two of the coalition organizations published “Extracting the Facts: An Investor Guide to Disclosing Risks from Hydraulic Fracturing Operations.”

The guide is organized around 12 core goals and supporting practices and indicators:

  • Manage risks transparently and at board level
  • Reduce surface footprint
  • Assure well integrity
  • Reduce and disclose all toxic chemicals
  • Protect water quality by rigorous monitoring
  • Minimize fresh water use
  • Prevent contamination from waste water
  • Minimize and disclose air emissions
  • Prevent contamination from solid waste and sludge residuals
  • Assure best in class contractor performance
  • Secure community consent
  • Disclose fines, penalties and litigation

Investors are seeking action from the industry due to the increasing level of uncertainty about the impacts of fracking on human health and the environment.

The Delaware River Basin Commission has a moratorium in place and has proposed regulations to protect water resources during the development and operation of natural gas projects. The Marcellus Shale formation underlies about 36 percent of the Delaware River Basin, which includes portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The province of Quebec, Canada has imposed a fracking moratorium. Outright bans in France and Bulgaria. Chevron’s exploration license in Bulgaria has been cancelled.

Investor concern is evident in the high levels of shareholder votes supporting requests for more fracking disclosure. In the 2010 and 2011 proxy seasons, 21 shareholder resolutions at 16 companies received strong support, averaging 30 percent votes on six resolutions going to votes in 2010, and an average 40 percent votes on five resolutions voted on in 2011.

Sister Nora Nash is director of corporate social responsibility with Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the other organization behind the guide. “Local communities have been seriously impacted by lifecycle of shale gas fracturing,” she told reporters. “What is not known is whether impacts are being adequately addressed by gas companies.” “We’ve heard all sorts of horror stories, but we’re still woefully under educated about this process. When adequate protections are not in place, communities on the front lines clearly suffer.”

See also the report in Scientific American entitled “The Future of Energy.”

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling |

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