Spring officially arrived on March 20 here in the highlands. As winter is fading away one finds evidence of the different stages of the annual transition, certainly an annual time of renewal. Trees at lower elevations are greening, but high on the ridge’s trees are still the stately statues of winter waiting for it to get a little warmer. Birds have been migrating and are busy with their annual nesting rituals. Mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter are reappearing, scurrying about filling long empty stomachs. Spring is always a wonderful time of the year.
It is hard to believe that I began a year ago by stating “March, the month that will change our lives forever”. What a change that has occurred and continues throughout the world with the Coronavirus pandemic spreading to over 140 countries. We now know that this worldwide event continues, and one thing is for sure, human activities throughout the world, including West Virginia, are in fact significantly changed and we are not sure how long that it will continue.
Daily, I am continuing to get proof as many organizations are requesting support as they work on issues that would affect the highlands and its environment as governmental agencies and industry continue to demonstrate their willingness to try to take advantage of the situation.
Rest assured, your West Virginia Highlands Conservancy board and its committees have been alert and continue to seize opportunities for the protection of West Virginia’s highlands.
As of Friday, March 26, a total of 21 bills have been signed by the Governor, 64 bills have completed legislation and 148 House bills have passed the full House. Wednesday, the 31st, was “Crossover”, the day that bills had to be out of the first chamber excluding supplementary appropriations and the budget. The West Virginia Environmental Council lobby team and other organizations have been busy monitoring legislation as it is introduced, reaching out to legislators, and working with coalition partners. They have identified good, and of course, bad legislation for our fragile environment.
As of March 26, a couple particularly important bills being monitored were:
Altering the Above Ground Storage Tank Act
- HB 2598: Exempts certain oil and gas storage tanks from the Above ground Storage Tank Act. The oil and gas tank exemptions (AKA Aboveground Storage Tank) bill passed the House and was pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was expected to be put on the agenda soon.
Water Quality Standards
- HB 2382: A rules bundle authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate legislative rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards, ambient air quality standards, and other important named standards was completed and passed on to the Governor for signature.
There were many others and you can follow action alerts and legislative updates at https://wvecouncil.org/.
WVHC Public Lands Committee
The Public Lands Committee continues to be busy reviewing proposed projects in the Monongahela National Forest and submitting comments and suggestions as determined necessary. In addition, they are engaged in the initiative to undertake its new program to help guide and engage the public in the management of the popular Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.
Members of the committee have met with representatives of the U. S. Forest Service to discuss the Dolly Sods program which would organize volunteers, lovers, and users of the area and give them an outlet for organizing trail work outings, backpack excursions, campsite rehabilitation, wilderness and leave no traceeducation. An article in the April 2021 issue of Harper’s Magazine pointing out the nationwide issues created by the excessive use of our public lands certainly pointed out the necessity for such a program. https://harpers.org/archive/2021/04/the-business-of-scenery-why-national-parks-need-new-management/?fbclid=IwAR3iGig-3-cIvNg6aXeUvhOpVntJ-wnz0LF5cYSK6AXwd0v-oIHrozzCvEY
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance Conservation Hub Program
Previous articles in the Voice have described the Conservation Hub (Hub) which is a project that focuses on reviewing and assessing land management and development proposals affecting the central Appalachian Highlands and adjoining areas. The intent of the Hub mapping systems is to overcome systemic limitations that regularly undermine public participation in permit review and thwart implementation of environmental regulations and policy. Those limitations could include lack of access to critical, but ever-changing project plans and impact analysis, consideration of individual projects or project components in isolation, and the general absence of an orderly and transparent regulatory process.
Members of the Conservancy Board serve on the Hub Advisory Committee which meets periodically to discuss current projects and recommendations for future projects. There are currently eight active projects, which are listed at https://hub-dpmc-gis.opendata.arcgis.com/, and several that have been approved that are being developed. Members of the Board have discussed two projects that are under consideration to be recommended to the Hub Advisory Committee for consideration in the future.
I want to thank all of the members and supporters of WVHC for their continued support and the committees for their hard work and hope that all continue to stay safe during this unusual time. Don’t forget to get outside on Earth Day (April 22) to hike, plant trees, pick up trash and find joy in the places you live.