About: West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

First coming together in 1965, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is one of the state’s oldest environmental activist organizations. With the increased awareness of environmental issues in the 1960s, a coalition of recreational users of the West Virginia Highlands came together to address a whole host of environmental threats to our state.  Over the past 40 years, the Highlands Conservancy has continued to be the leader in protecting the natural environment of our state through both defensive and offensive campaigns.

When the Highlands Conservancy was formed, the proposed Highlands Scenic Highway would have sliced a gaping wound from north to south through the heart of the highlands, the Royal Glen dam would have flooded much of the Potomac Valley including the Smoke Hole area, the Davis Power project threatened much of Canaan Valley with inundation, the proposed Rowlesburg Dam on the Cheat River threatened to flood the Cheat River Valley including the St. George area, and newly proposed strip mines threatened many of our forests and mountains and condemned many of our waterways with acid mine drainage.

From the beginning, the Highlands Conservancy has dealt with a whole array of threats to our wonder-full state.  We were instrumental in the passage of the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act, which gave us our first Wilderness areas–Dolly Sods and Otter Creek.  We began a campaign that lasted over 35 years to protect Canaan Valley and saw the successful establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge there.  We mounted campaigns to stop numerous dams proposed around the state.  We filed our first lawsuit against strip mining in 1967, which was the beginning of almost 40 years of leadership on coal mining issues in West Virginia. We helped enact important environment-protecting legislation such as the Surface Mine Control and Reclaimation Act (SMCRA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).  Protecting clean air, clean water, forests, streams, mountains, and the health and welfare of the people that live here, is what the Highlands Conservancy is all about.

The Highlands Conservancy publishes the Hiking Guide to the Monongahela National Forest .  Our monthly newspaper, the Highlands Voice has been in continuous monthly publication since 1967.  Highlands Conservancy members do far more than work to protect our state from destructive forces.  Together, they also enjoy the lands and waters they work to protect through Conservancy-sponsored activities. They explore woodlands, valleys, bogs and caves, canoe and fish, climb mountains, and search out birds, wildflowers and native animals. Conservancy membership means new friendships, new experiences, and new rewards.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy:

* is working in vigorous opposition to coal mining by mountaintop removal.  This destructive form of strip mining has gotten out of control.  Lawsuits brought by the Highlands Conservancy are challenging this method of resource extraction based on violations of the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.  The environmental and social impacts of mountain top removal mining extend well beyond the streams that are filled.  Forests will take centuries to regenerate, if they ever do, on the packed, barren surface left after this most destructive of mining methods.  The communities below these massive operations are often devastated, either by the mining itself, or by subsequent floods and valley fill mudslides.  We believe that new rules for these activities are necessary, and existing laws need to be more vigorously enforced.

* with our efforts on the coal mining issue go well beyond just mountain top removal.  We continue to defend our mining laws and work on other mining related issues like Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) which is destroying streams in the northern part of the state.

* through its Forest Watch program is a leader in protecting the Monongahela National Forest .  The Highlands Conservancy provides West Virginians a strong voice for protecting this public resources from the exploiting and destructive forces of industry.  As part of this program our Mountain Odyssey outings calendar provides adventurous people the opportunity to get out and explore and enjoy our Wonder-full state.  We also give back to the Mon through trail maintenance projects as well as helping with forest restoration and other conservation efforts.

* continues its Wilderness tradition, and after 40 years of winning Wilderness protection for the Mon, it continues this effort through its work with the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition.

* is deeply involved in the current debate about the massive wind energy facilities now coming to the Highlands .  These projects produce green energy on the one hand, but also seriously damage the ecology and aesthetics of the West Virginia Highlands on the other.

* supports bringing Blackwater Canyon into public ownership.  This dramatic canyon lies below Blackwater Falls State Park and is surrounded by Monongahela National Forest .  It is considered by many to be one of West Virginia ‘s greatest scenic treasures.

* continues to work to keep massive highway projects such as Corridor H from further destroying and fragmenting our mountainous highlands.

* works to protect our native flora and fauna while encouraging a fight against harmful invasive exotic species.

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