Did you know that September is National Wilderness month?
A Wilderness designation by Congress is the strongest form of protection that we can give to our public lands. The United States was the first country in the world to define and designate Wilderness through law. We should take great pride in these special places and ensure that they remain protected.
Photo taken in Thunder Ridge Wilderness. Thunder Ridge Wilderness is in Rockbridge, Botetourt, and Bedford Counties. Established in 1984, this 2,428 acre treasure is the smallest wilderness in Virginia. However, its small size is not indicative of its true nature. Thunder Ridge Wilderness is rugged. Located below the crest of its namesake Thunder Ridge, this wilderness rises almost 3,000 feet from Arnolds Valley to Apple Orchard Mountain on the crest of the Blue Ridge. Thunder Ridge Wilderness is separated from the larger James River Face Wilderness by Petites Gap Road. Together, they create over 11,000 acres of nearly contiguous Wilderness land.
The Forest Service is considering major changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that ensures that the American people get to have a say about how public lands are managed. They are proposing to cut the public out of project planning. This means we’ll have no chance to speak up to protect our favorite trails, vistas or picnic areas from logging, road building, and even pipelines.
“Under the new rule, the Forest Service will have nearly complete discretion to approve commercial logging projects, build new roads in areas that are important for nonmotorized recreation and wildlife, close roads that are important for public access, and even approve pipeline or utility rights of way, all without science-based review and public accountability,” says Sam Evans, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Make sure the Forest Service knows it's your right to weigh in by submitting a comment at OurForestsOurVoice.org.
The deadline for comments is Monday, August 26.
Created by our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center
This email is being sent on behalf of North River District Ranger, Mary Yonce.
Dear Interested Forest Users,
The North River Ranger District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is seeking comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the North Shenandoah Mountain Restoration and Management Project (NSM Project). The project proposes restoration actions on about 9,243 acres of the approximately 128,000-acre planning area located in Rockingham County, Virginia and Pendleton County, West Virginia.
This project has been designed to move the existing conditions within the North River Ranger District towards desired conditions describe in the 2014 Revised Forest Plan for the George Washington National Forest (Forest Plan). The Draft EA documents the site-specific analysis for implementing the proposed action, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).
Information on the proposed action and associated analysis documents can be viewed online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50342. These documents also are available for review at the district office in Harrisonburg, VA. Printed copies of the Draft EA are available upon request.
We welcome your involvement and encourage your review of and comments on this analysis. Specific comments on how to improve the proposal, what you prefer in other alternatives, or important things you think we missed in the alternatives, are very helpful. We can better respond to your comments if you are as specific as possible and if you cite the location(s) in the document of the section to which you are directing your comments. If you reference other documents in your comments, please attach complete copies, or links to them. If complete copies are not available, please provide the cover page and applicable pages from them.
Substantive comments provide factual information, professional opinion, or informed judgment that is relevant to the action being proposed. Substantive comments are specific, comparative, or solution oriented. A substantive comment provides the reasons why and goes beyond just expressing an opinion. While all comments will be considered, substantive comments related to the alternatives the most useful.
A public meeting about the project is scheduled for August 22, 2019, from 1 pm to 3 pm. at the Bridgewater Town Hall located at: 201 Green St, Bridgewater, VA 22812. During that time, the interdisciplinary team will provide overview information and answer questions about the NSM Project. Official comments will only be accepted in writing per 36 CFR §218.2.
Comments may be submitted through the project comment page located here:
Electronic comments may be uploaded as Microsoft Word documents (.doc or .docx), portable document files (.pdf), rich text format (.rtf), text (.txt), or hypertext markup language (.html) files. Comments may also be mailed to Mary Yonce, North River District Ranger, 401 Oakwood Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, or hand delivered to the above address on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Please reference North Shenandoah Mountain Restoration and Management Project in the subject line.
Comments must be submitted by 30 days from date of the legal notice published in the Harrisonburg Daily News Record. This notice is expected to be published on Thursday, August 15, 2019. Only those who submit timely and specific comments during this comment period will be eligible to object. In order to file an objection, each individual or representative from each organization submitting comments must either sign the comments or verify identity upon request.
Please contact Kevin Kyle, Zone Silviculturist, at (540) 984-4101 if you have questions concerning this project. Thank you for your continued interest in the management of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
From our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), who represented the Virginia Wilderness Committee in several lawsuits against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:
Fish and Wildlife Service permit did not protect endangered species
July 26, 2019
We’ve long argued against the necessity of the poorly-routed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which slices through environmentally sensitive and sacred areas on its way from West Virginia, through Virginia, and into North Carolina. Today’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to throw out an important pipeline permit because it failed to protect threatened and endangered species in the pipeline’s path is further evidence that the project has not been well-planned or properly analyzed.
“In its rush to help this pipeline company, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to protect species on the brink of extinction—its most important duty,” says Attorney Patrick Hunter. “This pipeline would blast through some of the last populations of these rare animals.”
Construction on the natural gas pipeline has been stopped since December 2018 when multiple permits were called into question or overturned, including those from the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those permits are still outstanding.
“Dominion’s permitting problems are entirely self-inflicted—it chose a risky and unreasonable route and didn’t let the Fish and Wildlife Service do its job,” Hunter continues. “Dominion keeps trying to bend the law to its objectives by exerting political pressure on federal agencies instead of following the law like everyone else is required to do.”
SELC is representing Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee in the case.
Among the many problems for this pipeline is a federal court decision that the Forest Service erred in allowing the pipeline to carve through national forests and was not authorized to allow the project to cross the treasured Appalachian Trail.
Now, the project is several years behind, and more than $2 billion over its original $6 billion budget. If constructed, ratepayers will be expected to pay for the pipeline while the energy companies collect a 15 percent profit. For now, there is no clear path forward for Dominion to construct the pipeline on its current route.
Compelling evidence shows that the ACP is unnecessary for anything other than Dominion and Duke Energy profits.
For more information on this unnecessary pipeline and its devastating impacts: Check out StopTheACP.org for more.
At this past Saturday's Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary Celebration, held at Ivy Creek Natural Area in Charlottesville, the VWC board voted in the two slated board members. We welcome Bark Koelher and Tim Mahoney to the VWC board and look forward to all that they will bring to the organization.
Bart Koehler has been VWC's Special Advisor for about a decade and has been helping us for several decades, but now joins the board as a member. Bart is one of the most respected wilderness leaders in the United States. He worked 19 years with The Wilderness Society and from 1999-2011, was Director and then Senior Wilderness Campaign Director of TWS’s Wilderness Support Center in Durango, CO. After being the coordinator of the American Wilderness Project for several years, Bart has been trying to learn how to retire while being on the boards of directors of a number of wilderness conservation groups across the country.
During the course of his four-decade career, he has helped many bedrock grassroots groups, including the Virginia Wilderness Committee, secure permanent protections for numerous areas encompassing over 10 million acres of public land...from Wyoming to Alaska, from Nevada to New Hampshire, and beyond. Bart helped with successful passage of wilderness legislation for Three Ridges and The Priest in 2000 and Virginia Ridge and Valley Act in 2009.
Although he lives in Florida, Bart’s ties with Virginia Wilderness Committee go back to the 1970s when Bart learned the ropes of wilderness advocacy from our own Ernie Dickerman. After Ernie’s death, Bart helped VWC team up with mountain bike leaders to develop the Shenandoah Mountain Proposal, and he continues to advise us. In his spare time Bart is also a singer-songwriter. One special song by Bart is "The Ernie Song", which he wrote as a tribute to our own Ernie Dickerman.
Tim had a 40 year career in conservation and public lands, working for Sierra Club, The
Wilderness Society and the Pew Charitable Trusts and as a private consultant, representing
groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, Campaign for American Wilderness, Alaska
Native corporations, and land conservancies in the Northwest and Southern California. In all,
he worked on wilderness legislation for lands in 40 states, including the Alaska National Interest
Lands Conservation Act, the 1984 Virginia Wilderness Act and the Omnibus Public Land
Management Act of 2009. The nature of this work involved coordinating with leaders in state
and local campaigns, direct contacts with members of Congress, the Administration and staff, determination of strategy for campaigns and direct negotiation.
Tim first learned from and worked with Ernie Dickerman in the 1970’s when he worked for The Wilderness Society. In 1991, he and his wife Sharon Newsome purchased a log home on Little North Mountain in Shenandoah County with a sweeping view of the Valley, Massanutten Mountain and the Blue Ridge. They moved full time to the Valley following retirement in 2015 where they live with their little dog Max and Tim’s two Kubotas. Tim is active in the local Take A Hike group and a member of Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.
Virginia Wilderness Committee's
50th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting Agenda
August 3, 2019
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ivy Creek Natural Area Education Building
1780 Earlysville Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901
3:30 Presentation of the 1st Annual Virginia Wilderness
Committee “Wilderness Hero Award” by David Carr
4:00 Special guest speaker, Dr. Rupert Cutler, will share
experiences stemming from his involvement in the
protection of Wilderness areas across the United States
as assistant executive director of The Wilderness Society
and as the assistant secretary for Natural Resources and
Environment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
4:30 Questions and answers
Brief Campaign updates
Election of Officers
Don't Let the Administration Overhaul the NEPA Process on OUR National Forests. Make Your Voice Heard by August 12.
The Forest Service is proposing to eliminate public participation and science-based analysis for nearly every decision affecting national forests, from timber sales to road construction to pipeline rights of way. If the proposal moves forward, the public won’t receive notice or a chance to object to specific projects in the future.
The Forest Service is required by law to take public comments on this proposal, but if we don’t speak up now, it could be our last chance.
Public participation is essential for good decisions affecting public lands. When the Forest Service considers allowing logging, road-building, mining, or fracking on our national forests, it must balance those uses with impacts to wildlife, clean water, backcountry areas, recreation on rivers and trails. That balancing act is impossible without listening to the people who would be affected by its decisions.
Our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center have developed a digital resource at OurForestsOurVoice.org that allows members of the public to easily generate and submit comments on the docket, at Regulation.gov, opposing the Forest Service’s proposed NEPA rule rewrite.
Make your voice be heard by visiting OurForestsOurVoice.org by August 12.
The Virginia Wilderness Committee (VWC) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. In celebration of its achievements, VWC will be hosting an event on Saturday, August 3, at the Ivy Creek Natural Area to share with its members and other guests the milestones and challenges of the last 50 years, while looking forward to future opportunity.
Special guest speaker, Dr. Rupert Cutler, will share experiences stemming from his involvement in the protection of Wilderness areas across the United States as assistant executive director of The Wilderness Society and as the assistant secretary for Natural Resources and Environment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the wake of the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and in anticipation of decisions being made about Eastern public lands, the Wilderness Society organized a series of local Virginia meetings to encourage grass-roots participation in the Wilderness movement. In Richmond on May 24-25, 1969 the Virginia Wilderness Committee was formally established.
From that time, VWC has been a driving force behind public land protection in Virginia. VWC has been behind the identification and legislative pushes of all 215,000 acres of designated Wilderness areas in Virginia and the three National Scenic Areas. VWC continues this tradition of activism today with ongoing efforts to establish new Wilderness Areas at Rich Hole and Rough Mountain, Beech Lick Knob, Shenandoah Mountain, and other areas.
The event will be held on Saturday, August 3, from 3-5 pm at the Ivy Creek Education Building, located at 1780 Earlysville Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901.
Board of Supervisors recap: National Scenic Area Resolution approved From the News Leader in Staunton, June 27, 2019
Claire Mitzel, Staunton News Leader
Published 6:30 a.m. ET June 27, 2019
The supervisors also approved a resolution in support of a proposal to designate George Washington National Forest land on Shenandoah Mountain a National Scenic Area.
The proposal would offer the 90,000 acres across Augusta, Rockingham and Highland counties permanent protection from industrial development and fracking, Lynn Cameron told the supervisors Monday during their staff briefing.
Cameron is co-chair of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, a group working to preserve the wilderness and promote active management. She said she has spent more than a decade working on the proposal.
Surrounded by close to 15 supporters, she said on Wednesday that the approval was a "big step forward."
"I'm just thrilled the county has taken a position on this," Cameron said.
The designation requires federal legislation from Congress, but Cameron said every bit of support helps.
"(Legislators) would not want to introduce legislation without (localities') support," she said.
She said Augusta County is the first county to support the proposal. Friends of Shenandoah Mountain is working to get support from Rockingham and Highland counties, too.
She said the National Scenic Area designation has other benefits, too: clean water, increased tourism to the region, flood protection and outdoor recreation.
There would be four embedded wilderness areas:
Cameron said that 400 businesses and organizations throughout the region, state, nation and world have endorsed the proposal. George Washington National Forest's management plan also recommends the proposal, she said.
Pastures Magisterial District Supervisor Pam Carter said on Monday during the staff briefing that she was impressed with the cross-section of businesses and organizations who supported the resolution.
There are currently seven National Scenic Areas in the U.S., with three in Virginia, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
"This fits with all the other good things we have going on," Cameron said of Augusta County.