It was a beautiful day to be in the woods. VWC's Board members Laura Neale and Lynn Cameron and VWC's Field Director Mark Miller and Outreach Coordinator Lacey Dean joined members of the Stakeholder Collaborative and the public on a tour given by the Forest Service of the markings for the Porters Mill timber sale, a part of the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project on March 29. VWC appreciates being part of the planning for our national forest resources.
On March 16th the Forest Service initiated its second large scale landscape project. The North Shenandoah Mountain Restoration and Management Project (NSMP) is located in northwestern Rockingham County. The project follows the successful conclusion of the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project in Bath and Alleghany Counties.
While the size and scope of the project has yet to be determined, the area under consideration includes Forest Service land north of US 33 and west of Route 259. Activities that may be considered include timber harvesting, prescribed fire, trails, stream restoration work and the removal of NNIS.
The initial roll out meeting’s purpose was to make the public aware this project is now in the planning phase. The meeting also served to educate the public on forest project planning rules and regulations. Project planning is expected to take two years.
The meeting was well attended and included people who represent many different user groups including mountain biking, hunting, active management, off road vehicles, fisheries, conservation and the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative. The Stakeholder Collaborative has been active on the GW for several years. The Collaborative has developed a shared vision for the management of the forest including a mosaic of habitats from young forest to Wilderness. The Virginia Wilderness Committee’s primary interest in the project is the plan designated Beech Lick Knob Wilderness Study Area.
Beech Lick Knob was recommended to Forest Planner four years ago by the Stakeholder Collaborative and is included in the Revised Management Plan for the forest. Beech Lick is a 5,700 acre landscape of old growth forest, small streams and high elevation ridges. Its remote and unroaded character make it a prime candidate for Wilderness consideration.
The Virginia Wilderness Committee will keep you posted on meetings and opportunities to comment on the NSMP. Stay tuned.
New route is bad news!
Dominion announced in February that it will pursue a new alternative route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that circumvents Shenandoah Mountain in VA and Cheat Mountain in WV and passes through 14.3 miles of the George Washington National Forest in Highland, Bath, and Augusta Counties, catching landowners along the way completely off guard.
A close look at the new route reveals that it is very problematic. In addition to fragmenting habitat in the national forest, it would negatively affect five Special Biological Areas, an Inventoried Roadless Area, two Concentrated Recreation Areas, a Recreational River Corridor, a Scenic Corridor, a Dispersed Recreation Area, several significant cultural resources. and a long list of trails, including both the Great Eastern Trail and the Appalachian Trail. There is nothing to like about this new route.
Dominion wants to survey in the GWNF
Dominion has requested a special use permit from the George Washington National Forest to survey the new route beginning in spring 2016, and to continue surveying the old route. Surveys would gather information on wetlands, water, soil, sensitive species, and cultural resources. Dominion is asking for a study corridor that is 2000-6,000 ft. wide! The pipeline could potentially be routed anywhere within this wide corridor. The GWNF has issued a scoping notice, asking the public for comments, which are due March 21.
Say NO to a survey!
Tell the Forest Service to deny Dominion's request for a special use permit. There is no point in doing a survey through a route lined with special natural resources, cherished recreations areas and unique cultural resources.
Tell them what we really need is a meaningful "region-wide" NEPA analysis and comparison of all the new pipelines that have been proposed rather than simply bulldozing through the GW.
Send your comments:
New ACP Route - All Bad News! (See maps)
On March 16th the Forest Service will be holding a meeting to discuss the North Shenandoah Restoration and Management Project. This large landscape will be centered around the Slate Lick area in northwestern Rockingham County. The purpose of the meeting is to introduce the project to the public and begin to gather information about its scale and scope. We invite all VWC members to attend this important gathering. The meeting is from 9-2 and will be held at the Rockingham County Administration Center 20 East Gay Street in Harrisonburg.
Time Topic Presenter
9:00 am – 9:15 am Welcome Elwood Burge, North River District Ranger
9:15 am – 9:45 am Introductions
9:45 am – 10:30 am Project/Process Overview Karen Overcash, Project Coordinator
· Process, Project Sideboards, Timelines, etc.
10:30 am – 10:45 am BREAK
10:45 am – 12:00 pm Presentations on Current Conditions
· Forest Vegetation – Kevin Kyle, North Zone Silviculturist
· Wildlife and Aquatics – Meg McElveen, North Zone Wildlife Biologist
· Recreation – Steven Beri, North River District Recreation Program Manager
· History of Wildfire and Prescribed Fire - TBD
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm LUNCH
1:00 pm – 1:10 pm Closeout Elwood and Karen
1:10 pm – 2:00 pm Informal Time for Reviewing Maps and Discussions
An economic study commissioned by five local groups concerned about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline shows that the costs far outweigh the benefits of the pipeline. The eye-opening analysis found that up to $141 million in lost property value and services, such as water and air quality, would occur across the four-county study area just during construction. Further, the pipeline will depress area economies, contribute to job loss, reduce quality of life, and lower personal incomes in perpetuity to the tune of up to $109 million annually. Those estimates are conservative, notes Spencer Phillips, founder of Key-Log Economics. “Putting the stream of costs into present value terms and adding the one-time costs, the total estimated cost of the ACP in Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham Counties is between $6.9 and $7.9 billion,” he said.
Economic Costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Effects of Property Value, Ecosystem Services, and Economic Development in Western and Central Virginia
Dominion has proposed a new route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that avoids Shenandoah Mountain, Cheat Mountain, and Red Spruce restoration areas in West Virginia. The new route circumvents Shenandoah Mountain by going around its southern end in Bath County and then through the Deerfield Valley to reconnect with Dominion's preferred route at West Augusta. Click on the map below to connect to an interactive map, developed by Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition and Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance.
Read statements from:
The US Forest Service has just rejected the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) route over Shenandoah Mountain in Virginia and Cheat Mountain in West Virginia, citing protection of sensitive resources, including the Cow Knob Salamander, the Cheat Mountain salamander, the West Virginia Northern flying squirrel, and red spruce ecosystem restoration areas in WV. According to a USFS letter, dated Jan. 19, 2016, the ACP route is inconsistent with the GWNF and Monongahela National Forest plans and the Cow Knob Salamander Conservation Agreement.
The proposed route, shown on the map below, grazes the southern boundary of our Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area proposal. It crosses Rt. 250 near Ramseys Draft Wilderness and passes through the GWNF near Braley Pond, one of the most scenic areas of the GWNF.
The FS letter states that "alternatives must be developed to facilitate further processing" of the ACP application. Any new alternative(s) must avoid Shenandoah Mountain. This is good news for special places on our public lands the Virginia Wilderness Committee is working hard to protect.
(January 6, 2016) Roanoke, VA – The USDA Forest Service presented the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, a partnership of 19 local organizations and other individuals, with the 2015 Partners and Community Engagement award for their efforts on the George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Plan) and Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project.
This regional award honors one partner group selected from among 17 National Forests in 13 southern states. The award recipients were recognized for their innovative and creative approaches to building partnerships and implementing Forest Service projects.
The award recipients represent: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Society of American Foresters; Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition; Virginia Wilderness Committee; The Nature Conservancy; Shenandoah Mountain Touring; Bath County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited; The Nature Conservancy; Virginia Forestry Association; Quality Deer Management Association - Rockingham Branch; Southern Environmental Law Center; Friends of Shenandoah Mountain; Virginia Chapter Sierra Club; Virginia State Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation; James River Chapter of Ruffed Grouse Society, Alleghany County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Bear Hunters Association; and Virginia State Leadership Team, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
This diverse group of stakeholders united in 2010 with the goal of developing recommendations for the management of the George Washington National Forest. The Collaborative built trust among diverse interests and found common goals. Through open dialog and use of resources such as the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, representatives from the participating organizations built consensus around a suite of issues that have traditionally been contentious and polarizing. The Collaborative is convened by a six-member steering committee: Al Bourgeois and Jay Jeffreys (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), John Hancock (Virginia Forestry Association/Society of American Foresters), Kyle Lawrence (Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition), Mark Miller (Virginia Wilderness Committee), and Marek Smith (The Nature Conservancy).
The product of their efforts was the submission of joint comments on the George Washington National Forest Draft Plan. The Final Plan, released in November 2014, reflected many of the recommendations and received broad public support as a result of the diligence of the Stakeholder Collaborative. The Forest Plan recommended additional acres of Wilderness and a National Scenic Area, as well as additional areas and objectives for management activities such as timber harvesting, controlled burning, and other habitat management techniques.
According to John Hancock, one of the steering committee members who helped initiate the group,
The Stakeholder Collaborative participated in public workshops, encouraged public and county engagement, and provided input to identify priority restoration efforts and management activities. Their efforts produced a plan which outlines a roster of restoration and management projects to take place over the next ten years. These proposed projects include timber management, road restoration and management, fish and aquatic organism passage improvements, wildlife habitat management, American Chestnut restoration, non-native invasive species control, recreational trail development, and prescribed fire.
These projects reflect the unified Vision Statement of the partnership:
“We envision a well-connected network of core, relatively unfragmented, forested areas embedded within
VWC is advertising a part-time job. We are looking for qualified candidates who are committed to Wilderness protection. Please forward to anyone who might be interested.
Board Operations and Outreach Assistant
Deadline for applications: Jan 22, 2016
Virginia Wilderness Committee is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit citizen group dedicated to protecting wild places on the public lands of Virginia, fostering understanding of Wilderness Areas, and educating the public about the scientific and social values of wildlands. VWC is governed by volunteer elected officers of its Board of Directors, and has one fulltime staff for field operations.
JOB DUTIES: The Operations Assistant will be responsible for assisting the Board President and other Board members: (1) develop an outreach campaign, (2) manage our web site and several social media platforms, and (3) assist with selected administrative tasks.
REQUIREMENTS: Undergraduate or associate degree (depending on work experience); demonstrated ability to make public presentations; excellent interpersonal skills, including ability to engage constructively with the general public and with Board members; demonstrated ability to write clearly; ability to work independently; computer competence including social media; willingness to travel throughout the Shenandoah Valley to make presentations. An understanding of the National Wilderness Preservation System, wilderness values, and National Forests is helpful but not required.
SALARY AND HOURS: Starting salary $14.00-$18.00 per hour, depending on work experience, with opportunity for a merit raise after a three-month trial period. Hours flexible, with an average of up to 14 hours per week.
APPLICATION: Please send full resume, writing samples, and computer expertise, along with a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position to: Bud Watson, President, Virginia Wilderness Committee, 14031 Independence Road, Ashland, VA 23005, or email to email@example.com, by January 22, 2016.
FERC puts Atlantic Coast Pipeline EIS on hold pending development of more southern route alternative
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has asked Dominion to identify and develop a more southern Atlantic Coast Pipeline route across the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests that would avoid Shenandoah Mountain and Cheat Mountain and use existing utility rights of ways as much as possible. FERC has also called for updated information on any reroutes. We presume this would include biological surveys for the new southern route.
VWC is heartened that FERC has specifically called for a route that avoids designated and potential Wilderness Areas, National Recreation Areas, recommended wilderness study areas, and other sensitive public or resource areas.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is on hold until the more southern route has been developed and assessed.
Excerpt from FERC's Dec. 4, 2015 letter to Dominion:
"You should be aware that through our consultations with the U.S. Forest Service and our interpretation of the prescriptive-specific goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines listed in the respective Monongahela and George Washington National Forests’ Land and Resource Management Plans, we have determined that alternative routes to the south of the currently proposed ACP route may offer environmental advantages over the currently proposed route. To ensure that a complete and thorough evaluation of the ACP is presented in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS), we request that Atlantic identify and assess an alternative pipeline route across the National Forests. The information requested in the enclosure is necessary for us to evaluate the SHP, ACP, and an alternative pipeline route across the National Forests and to continue preparation of the draft EIS for the project. Please note that we will not be able to establish a schedule for completing the EIS until we have received your response(s) and reviewed it for completeness...
Read FERC's full letter to Dominion at: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/21393847/FERC/20151204-3026%2831059649%29.pdf