"Shenandoah Mountain: Preserving One of Virginia's Most Beautiful Places", by EMU graduate, Macson MacGuigan
VWC Board Members Lynn Cameron, Christy Bradburn, and Steve Johnson all participated in this captivating and visually stunning video on Shenandoah Mountain.
A Celebration of Bess’ life will be held on April 15, 2017 from 2:00pm-3:30pm
Education Building, Ivy Creek Natural Area, 1780 Earlysville Rd, Charlottesville VA 22903
Cards may be sent to Jim at: 1601 Bentivar Farm Rd., Charlottesville, VA 22901
Memorial contributions may be sent to:
The Virginia Wilderness Committee
P.O. Box 1235, Lexington, VA 24450
Bess Murray, one of the VWC’s most dedicated core members, died on March 31. She and Jim have been a force for Wilderness in Virginia since the VWC was formed in 1969, helping with the passage of six Wilderness bills from the first in 1975 (James River Face) through our most recent in 2009 (Ridge and Valley). Born in England, Bess met Jim over a lab bench at Oxford where they both studied. They were married in 1957 and lived at Bentivar since 1964. The Murrays hosted so many VWC meetings that Bentivar became the hub for Wilderness advocacy in Virginia.
In the early years when Bess and Jim’s three children were young, the whole family would scout wild areas and show them to Senators, Congressmen, and other decision-makers. On a trip with Rep. Jim Olin to old growth in one of our proposals, we climbed through rough terrain to find a giant hemlock. When we sat down to rest, Bess pulled out a quiche she had made that morning, using eggs from her own chickens. On another scouting hike through our proposed Little River Wilderness, Bess and Tiki jumped in Hearthstone Lake for a swim in mid-October. After the children grew up, the Murrays took dogs along on our scouting trips. Both Murrays were exceptional naturalists and could identify most everything we would see, making for a rich learning experience for the rest of us.
Bess actively recruited new members for the VWC, always willing to approach strangers with brochures in hand. Once she recruited a passerby who stopped to help them when their car broke down. Her enthusiasm for Wilderness was so contagious that they didn’t stand a chance.
Besides working for Wilderness Bess helped found Ivy Creek Foundation and served as Coordinator. She wrote for Virginia Wildlife for 10 years and broadcast the weekly “Natural History Note” on WTJU radio for 15 years. In her spare time, she raised cattle and chickens, mended fence, grew a garden, danced with Jim, travelled extensively, and much more. Bess was an extraordinary woman. We will miss her, and we will remember her.
- Lynn Cameron
Tributes from Wilderness Friends
Only coming to VWC recently I did not have the pleasure of the long association with Bess and Jim that many of you enjoyed -- and that is my great regret. My fondest memory of my short association with her was being treated to her hospitality when Jim, Chris, and I met as the 2015 VWC Nominating Committee at Bentivar. After our meeting Bess served us a delicious lunch and regailed us with delightful commentary on everything from growing much of the food there at Bentivar to a wonderful recounting of their life together with VWC. She was a truly remarkable person, incredibly knowledgeable and at the same time delightfully down to earth. The pleasure of her presence will be sorely missed. -- Bud Watson
What do I remember about Bess? She always came with food—especially the Deviled Eggs. I would frequently call the Murrays while driving home from some late night meeting in SWVA and Bess would almost always answer the phone. After a short chat, she would say, “Jim, it’s Mark” and while she handed the phone over to Jim, I knew that she was listening on the extension. I remember camping with Jim and Bess in what was to become Hunting Camp Creek Wilderness and a bear came through the campsite. Bess says, “Jim, it’s the bear again.” No panic, no fear, just a statement of fact. Bess and Jim going hiking through Hunting Camp Creek. Mind you, she had her hand in cast. I cannot remember why, but she comes out of the woods near a hunting camp without Jim in toe. Needless to say the guys in the camp where more than a bit surprised to see her walking out of the woods like it was a stroll in the park. I believe that the preservation of Virginia’s most special areas was one of Bess’ great passions. From Ivy Creek to Virginia’s Wilderness, Bess has left us a legacy like no other. A legacy of protecting our natural areas for future generations to enjoy. – Mark Miller
The first time I met Bess was up on the top of Spy Rock where the Murrays were hosting a picnic gathering in honor of Peter Kirby's 1998 AT thru hike promoting Wilderness. Bess was so welcoming to me, sharing food, enthusiasm, and enveloping me into the fold of folks who work for and require Wilderness in Virginia. Bess never missed an opportunity to educate any breathing prospect about Virginia Wilderness, and she graciously accepted pennies, and up, for the cause. I was especially enthralled by Bess's incisive comments. She went straight to the point. Though I only knew Bess through her Wilderness advocacy, I appreciate her huge contribution to educating Virginians about their natural heritage, and her significant role in helping preserve some of our most special places for its enjoyment. – Laura Neale
I met Bess and Jim Murray in the mid-1980s when I came to their old farmhouse for a meeting on Wilderness. The large stuffed black bear in their kitchen was a major attraction, but it was immediately clear that the team of Bess and Jim was an even more powerful embodiment of love and need for Wilderness. In our many meetings over the years, Bess was always demure and mostly let Jim take the lead. But when she spoke, Bess had the clear vision, the understanding of human nature, the profound love of wild nature and the absolute commitment to protecting it, that made her a trailblazer in working for Wilderness. Her guidance will be sorely missed, but the inspiration of her tireless work lives on. – Chris Bolgiano
Bess was a key partner with Jim to visit potential Wilderness and to advocate for protection with local leaders and members of Congress. – Lindsay West
Bess Murray is one of those unique individuals who will be forever remembered fondly by all who knew her. She was one of the first conservationists I met when I began working for The Nature Conservancy. Our actual connection was the Ivy Creek Natural Area, where Bess was a volunteer extraordinaire. We remained connected through our work with the VWC. She exuded humor, intelligence, grace, kindness, and a deep dedication to our natural world. Rest in peace, dear Bess. – Faye Cooper
Linda and I are saddened to learn that Bess Murray has passed on. We have known each other for many years and have fought the good battles together to keep our environment intact. She and Jim were the real stalwarts and her dedication, persistence, and competence were unsurpassed. She will be deeply missed by us all.
- Lincoln Brower and Linda Fink
Bess was a teacher and an encourager, and she helped me to be bold and speak truth to those in positions of power. She was also the provider of many road trip meals and snacks and lovely home grown dinners at Bentivar. She, with her lovely accent, was the backbone and the conscience of the Virginia wilderness movement. She and Jim together were a force to be reckoned with. – David Carr
Vote for the Virginia Wilderness Committee at REI's new DC Flagship store starting tomorrow!
Recreational Equipment Inc, or REI, is one of the many outdoor recreation businesses that support public lands stewardship through grants and their membership in the Conservation Alliance.
Visitors to REI's new DC Flagship store between March 24 and April 25 will have an opportunity to vote for the project they would like the Conservation Alliance to fund. Find VWC's display in the store and drop your ballot into a ballot box attached to the display. Votes will be tallied on April 25 and the two projects/organizations receiving the most votes will be sent to Conservation Alliance as REI/Patagonia grant endorsements.
VWC would love to receive a grant to keep protecting Virginia's wild places.
Check it out and vote early and often!
REI Washington DC Flagship Store
201 M Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
P: (202) 543-2040
Thanks REI and the Conservation Alliance!
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and public comments relating to the ACP and our National Forests are due April 10, 2017.
The proposed ACP route would cut a 21-mile permanent swath through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. The Draft EIS prepared by FERC for the project does not provide the information needed for Forest Service decisions.
Please send in your comments to FERC and request that the Forest Service OPPOSE ANY Special Use Permit for the ACP and reject forest plan amendments. Emphasize that the DEIS is incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect, and it does not provide adequate information for Forest Service decisions.
This story map on the 7 major Issues of the ACP route through our National Forests provides excellent background information, suggested talking points, and contact information for your comments. Check it out here: http://dpmc-gis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=bc1aadc65a6d47ae85fb01326a648673
Submit comments through FERC's online system, http://www.ferc.gov/. (Click on Documents and Filings and use the eComment feature), or send written comments to:
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
Be sure to reference docket number CP15-554.
Please send a copy of your letter to VWC, too. Thank you!
The Wilderness Society and Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visit to Peters Mountain
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.
The Wilderness Society representatives Brent Martin, Hugh Irwin and Michael Reimer, Virginia Wilderness Committee Executive Director Mark Miller, and Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Executive Director Andrew Downs with local concerned citizen from Monroe, Giles and Montgomery counties at Rice’s Field near Simms Gap on Peters Mountain. They are standing on the Appalachian Trail near the crossing of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline crossing of the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain in Monroe County.
While standing on top of Peter’s Mountain, Andrew Downs, Regional Director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Central and Southwest Virginia District explained to the group that Mountain Valley had rejected alternatives without adequate analysis of those alternatives where the AT is already impacted by development such as existing roads or utility corridors. He also spoke of the view impacts on Little Mountain and across Monroe County.
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.
The conservancy encouraged people concerned about the pipeline’s impacts on the trail to share those fears with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
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.
On Wednesday evening people from the Blacksburg area attended a meeting with The Wilderness Society Representatives, arranged by Preserve Montgomery County and the VA Tech Chapter of the VA Student Environment Coalition on the campus of Virginia Tech.
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 tour on Wednesday were: Hugh Irwin Landscape Conservation Planner The Wilderness Society Asheville, North Carolina Brent Martin Southern Appalachian Regional Director The Wilderness Society Shelby, North Carolina Maury Johnson, member of the ATC, The Wilderness Society, Save and Preserve Monroe, the Discover Monroe Team and the POWHR Coalition Steering Committee Tammy Belinsky, environmental lawyer from Floyd County Lynda Majors, Preserve Montgomery County
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:
We are joining with other Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance members to ask your help to protect one of the wildest, most intact forests in the East.
Dominion’s proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross 21 miles of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. Ask the Forest Service to reject Dominion’s efforts to shortcut the process for pipeline approval and Forest Plan amendment.
Before the ACP can be built across the national forests, the US Forest Service must (1) issue Special Use Permits and (2) amend forest management plans. To make these decisions, the Forest Service must review the impacts of the project according to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and its own procedures. The Forest Service has consistently shown its commitment to a careful and thorough analysis of these types of projects, requiring applicants to provide complete and high quality information and making decisions based on its own timelines.
For the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Forest Service depends, in a significant way, on the work of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is in charge of preparing an environmental impact statement. But on December 30, 2016 FERC published an incomplete and inaccurate Draft EIS that fails to address many Forest Service and public concerns. Most importantly, FERC improperly allows an applicant to defer submitting critical information until after a Certificate is issued or construction is underway, so the Forest Service won’t have the information needed to make its decisions.
On December 13, 2016 the Forest Service wrote to FERC describing its own procedural requirements for reviewing the ACP application, including a timeline that is longer than FERC’s schedule for project permitting. The Forest Service stated that, prior to making decisions on the project, all requested and needed data and plans must have been submitted and disclosed to the public.
It is critical that the Forest Service stay committed to the process and professional standards it upholds as stewards of our public lands. The Forest Service must take the time that it needs and the law provides to meet these standards. We believe that Dominion is extremely concerned about potential delays and Forest Service conditions. Dominion has repeatedly requested “expedited” review of this complex project which has so much potential to negatively impact both public and private lands.
Please voice your support for the U. S. Forest Service’s commitment to its requirements for a careful, thorough review of the pipeline application. Send statements of support to
Or send by mail to:
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426.
Please send a copy of your letter to VWC, too.
SAWS is coming to Virginia in a big way and looking for active, hands-on individuals with an enthusiasm for protecting public lands to join their team through two seasonal/temporty positions. If you have considered working in Wilderness, these are both great opportunities now available here in Virginia Wilderness! Click on the descriptions below to find out more information about the positions or the following link to go directly to the SAWS' website: http://www.trailcrews.org.
The long-awaited This American Land film on the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area Proposal is now available online. The segment on Shenandoah Mountain is the third segment in Episode #602 and is shown below. It features local friends and neighbors talking about protecting this special place. Season Six will be available to public television stations across the country soon. To see Episode #602 in its entirety, follow this link: http://www.thisamericanland.org/Episodes/season-six
The Virginia Wilderness Committee is pleased to announce there are two new brochures available for FREE to the public.
In the new VWC Wilderness education brochure, you'll find a map of all of the Wilderness Areas in the commonwealth of Virginia, as well as important facts about the benefits of Wilderness and Leave No Trace principles.
You can view and print the VWC Wilderness brochure from the website, www.vawilderness.org or by downloading the file below.
In addition, to learn more about the Virginia Wilderness Committee, check out our new informational brochure.
You can view and print the VWC informational brochure from the website, www.vawilderness.org or by downloading the file below.
Forest Service Concerned about ACP Access Roads
The Forest Service (FS) expressed concerns about Dominion's Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) route and accompanying access roads in a Sept. 1, 2016 letter to FERC. The letter cited Dominion's intent to build a new access road that would cross Laurel Run, a native brook trout stream in Bath County, multiple times. The FS states strongly that "the proposed access road is inconsistent with Forest Plan standards and best management practices (BMPs)" and is unacceptable. The letter also expressed concerns about access roads crossing streams that flow off Hankey Mountain in the Dowell's Draft and White Oak Draft areas, both wild brook trout streams.
ACP access roads are as problematic as the pipeline itself. They fragment the forest, degrade endangered Indiana bat habitat, threaten native brook trout streams, disturb Special Biological Areas, and intrude on popular recreation areas in our national forests.
The FS will be conducting a more thorough review of the pipeline and associated infrastructure.
Learn more from DPMC Story Maps:
Your Help is Needed!
Tell the Forest Service to deny Dominion's request for a special use permit to build the ACP and 20 miles of destructive access roads through the GW and Monongahela national forests. Construction and maintenance of this new utility corridor through our public lands would fragment core forests, put important watersheds at risk, and violate both forest plans.
Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org Be sure to thank the USFS for being responsible stewards of our national forests.
ACP and MVP Are Not Needed
Neither the Atlantic Coast Pipeline nor the Mountain Valley Pipeline are needed to meet our region’s future energy demands, according to a report by independent energy experts that was released on Sept. 12, 2016.
The conclusion of the study was, "Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and existing and new industrial facilities in production.” Our existing system of buried natural gas pipelines is sufficient to meet the region’s peak demands through 2030. Both of these proposed pipelines pass through special places on our public lands, fragmenting forests, threatening water supplies, and degrading popular recreation resources.
The report was written by Synapse Energy Economics and released by Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance.
Learn more from: