Monday, January 28, 2008

Monongahela Wilderness Area Expansion

I read this bit of good news in the West Virginia Gazette: Massive forest preserve planned by Ken Ward Jr., January 20. There's a map showing existing and proposed wilderness areas accompanying the article.

In August 2006, Rep. Nick Rahall hiked through the Greenbrier County woods, scrambling over fallen logs and rock outcroppings. Rahall joined members of the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition to scout out new areas of the Monongahela National Forest to protect. The West Virginia Democrat wanted to see firsthand some of the spots being considered for designation as wilderness areas. This particular hike took him through Big Draft, a 5,200-acre oak and hickory forest just five miles from White Sulphur Springs....

"It was a reaffirming experience, in that it underscored to me just how fortunate we are to still have such primeval settings like this in our state, and how, in the blink of an eye, they could disappear," Rahall recalled last week. If Rahall has his way, that won't happen to Big Draft, or to six other areas that he proposes to give wilderness designations.

Rahall plans to introduce his "Wild Monongahela Act" on Wednesday. He's billing the legislation as "A National Legacy for West Virginia's Special Places." Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are expected to be co-sponsors. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are also expected to support the plan.The areas would become the first new wilderness areas in West Virginia in nearly 25 years....

In general, the Wilderness Act prohibits commercial activities, motorized access and roads, structures and facilities. Hiking is allowed, but logging is prohibited...

Rahall's plan calls for expansion of three existing wilderness areas, Cranberry, Dolly Sods, and Dry Fork. It would also create four new wilderness areas: Big Draft, Cheat Mountain, Roaring Plains West and Spice Run. By adding 47,000 acres to the Monongahela National Forest's 78,000 acres of wilderness, the plan would increase the forest's wilderness acreage by 60 percent.

The plan includes three additional areas covering nearly 20,000 more acres of wilderness than was proposed by the U.S. Forest Service in a plan issued in September 2006. The Rahall plan is also less ambitious than wilderness expansions being promoted by various state environmental and conservation groups.

Matt Keller, spokesman for the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, said his group supports the Rahall plan, but had hoped it would include additional areas....Keller noted that Seneca Creek and the north and east units of Roaring Plains...are not part of the plan. Neither is the East Fork of Greenbrier area..., he said.

2 comments:

Dave said...

That's good news. I'm a huge fan of the Mon (and wrote letters in support of the new Wilderness designations).

Marvin said...

Sounds like really good news to me, but I'm sure there are some who aren't happy about it.