On Thursday Jan, 26th representatives from The Wilderness Society, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Virginia Wilderness Committee and local citizens from Monroe (WV), Giles (VA) and Montgomery (VA) counties trekked their way into the Peters Mountain Wilderness Area and the Jefferson National Forest to the Appalachian Trail to assess the impacts should the Mountain Valley Pipeline be built in the present proposed corridor.
These 17 individuals observed and documented potential severe impacts to unique land features, such as the total destruction to Mystery Ridge on Peters Mountain, impacts to numerous springs and other water resources found in or near the pipeline path, construction roads and work areas. They also found that the current path would severely impact Appalachian Trail itself as well as to one of the its most iconic view, the view across Monroe, Summers, Greenbrier, Mercer and Raleigh counties from “Rice’s Field” near Simms Gap.
Downs, speaking for the ATC said that Mountain Valley has failed to complete a key analysis of the pipeline’s visual impacts to the users of the AT, which has a huge regional, national and international constituency. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has over 40,000 members in all 50 states and numerous other countries. It is estimated that about 3 million visitors visit the trail yearly. It is a major part of the tourism industry of the area.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail or AT as it is known by many, was started in 1922 completed in 1937, and stretches roughly 2,200 miles through 14 states from Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Its presence in the region is frequently cited by economic development organizations as an important lifestyle amenity. The Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain in Monroe and Giles counties is regarded as one of its most treasured visual areas on the AT.
Others participating on the January 26th visit to Peters Mountain included Hugh Irwin, Mike Reinemer, and Brent Martin of The Wilderness Society, as well as Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. Irwin who is the Landscape Conservation Planner for The Wilderness Society said the route threatens profound impacts to what he described as “wilderness values,” including nature not touched by development and the sources of clean water for the area that is protected and sheltered by wilderness areas. He furthermore said that Mountain Valley would be hard pressed to find a more unsuitable route for the pipeline, when taking conservation values in consideration.
Dana Olson a member of Save Monroe and the Discover Monroe Team, adjacent to the Peters Mountain Wilderness and the Appalachian Trail, said that “Peters Mountain is a magical place filled with springs and aquifers. It is the source of water and life for thousands of residents in Monroe County.”
At the end of the 4 hour hike, officials from The Wilderness Society went to view the Rich Creek Spring that is the source of Rich Creek and a secondary water source for the Red Sulphur Public Service District. They commented that this was a an alarming example of what could be extremely affected or contaminated by the current MVP route. Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian Regional Director for The Wilderness Society said it was one of the most incredible springs he had ever seen.
Later they attended a public meeting with local citizens to hear their concerns. They stated that The Wilderness Society shares their concerns and were committed to protect the Wilderness, the Jefferson National Forest and the Appalachian Trail in the area. The meeting was well attended by citizens from Monroe and Summers Counties and representatives from the WV DEP.
On Friday Morning two representatives of The Wilderness Society along with members of Preserve Monroe, Save Monroe, and Indian Creek Watershed and environmental attorney Tammy Belinsky attended a meeting in the GW & Jefferson National Forest office in Roanoke VA, to voice their concerns and to challenge the Forest Service to do their jobs to protect the forest and not to succumb to political and or corporate pressure.
The Wilderness Society representatives will discuss a plan of action with their headquarters office in Washington D.C. and return to the area in the near future. They have a meeting scheduled with the local Forest Supervisor, Joby Timms in February and are contacting the Southern Regional District Forester, Tony Tooke in Atlanta GA to set up a meeting with him ASAP. Representatives from Monroe County will be invited to those meetings.
Prior to the Thursday and Friday activities, The Wilderness Society’s representatives Brent Martin and Hugh Irwin were taken on a guided tour on Wednesday afternoon through the Brush Mountain Wilderness Area and the Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA) which are part of the Jefferson National Forest in Montgomery County (VA). They also observed the Old Growth Forest, the Mount Tabor Sink Hole Plain, the Slusser’s Chapel Conservation Area and the crossing at Craig’s Creek. Lynda Majors with Preserve Montgomery County (VA) provided an excellent initial look at these areas, Maury Johnson a member of the POWHR Coalition, from Monroe County (WV) and Tammy Belinsky, environmental lawyer were part of this tour.
You can watch a video from the trip on Thursday and the meeting on Thursday night on YouTube to be released soon, The video title will be “The Wilderness Society Explores Impacts to the Appalachian Trail – Discover Monroe Episode 9”.
Those making the trip on Thursday were: Hugh Irwin, Landscape Conservation Planner The Wilderness Society Asheville, North Carolina Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian Regional Director The Wilderness Society Shelby, North Carolina Michael Reinemer The Wilderness Society National Office Washington D C Mark Miller , Executive Director, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Lexington VA Andrew Downs Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Director Central and Southwest Virginia Roanoke VA Russell Chisholm, Preserve Giles and POWHR Coalition Steering Committee Erin McKelvy , Preserve Montgomery
Kim Kirkbride, Preserve Giles and POWHR Coalition Steering Committee Laurie Ardison Save Monroe and Co-founder of POWHR Coalition. Dana Olson Member of ATC and The Wilderness Society , Save Monroe & the Discover Monroe Team Maury Johnson, member of the ATC, The Wilderness Society, Save and Preserve Monroe, the Discover Monroe Team and the POWHR Coalition Steering Committee Joe Chasnoff Save Monroe, Preserve Monroe and the Discover Monroe Team Russell Chisholm, Preserve Giles Herman Mann, member of Save Monroe, Discover Monroe Team Paula Mann, member of Preserve Monroe, Save Monroe, Discover Monroe Team and the ATC Duncan Adams Roanoke Times Reporter Erica Yoon, Roanoke Times Photographer Rusty, The Pipeline Fighting Dog and his sidekick Gus
For more information read/watch the following from WVNS TV 59 News and The Roanoke Times: