The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision on a case argued by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Virginia Wilderness Committee, Defenders of Wildlife, and Sierra Club that requires all construction and any activity associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to halt immediately. The three-judge panel found the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, which is required to certify the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, did not meet minimum legal standards.
ACTION ALERT – House Farm Bill would cut the “public” out of “public lands.” Urge your Reps to vote NO.
The House of Representatives will soon be voting on the 2018 Farm Bill, which would make big changes to the laws that protect public lands and their users. Among many harmful provisions, the House version of the bill would allow the Forest Service to bypass public input on clear cutting up to 6,000 acres (nearly 10 square miles!) in any single project. By comparison, even the largest Southeastern National Forests can sustainably support logging on only about 3,000 acres per year. As a result, this bill’s loophole would swallow every acre of logging in our region, and it would open up long-protected roadless areas to road construction and logging.
Our Southeastern National Forests provide clean drinking water to millions, provide places to play and explore for millions more, shelter countless rare wildlife species, and support diverse local economies built on tourism. By allowing industrial-scale logging in the wrong places, the bill places all those values at risk.
If the Forest Service needs to do a 6,000-acre project, it can do so already. But first it has to take input from the public about how they’d be affected, and it has to consider how water, soil, and wildlife habitat can be protected. The draft Farm Bill, however, would authorize logging without public involvement or consideration of impacts. This bill would guarantee that logging projects will get bigger, and they will get worse.
Public participation makes public lands work, but the House Farm Bill would remove the public’s voice.
Please call or write your representative in the House and tell them:
If you don’t have contact info for your representative, you can find her/him here:
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS AND THE LISTED COMMITTEE MEMBERS!
The House and Senate subcommittee reports released Sunday are bad for land conservation. Several of the harmful amendments stem from a misunderstanding of mitigation money.
Virginia has well established land conservation policies that emphasize geographic distribution of money and an increasing prioritization of public access and water quality protection. The mitigation money referenced in the subcommittee reports goes to mitigate mercury pollution in the Shenandoah Valley; power lines across Jamestown; and pipelines through our most pristine landscapes. Funding those geographic specific projects to remediate harm done should not be substituted for the Commonwealth’s established land conservation funding priorities that citizens and communities rely.
Essentially, the Virginia Senate is proposing to raid funds dedicated to mitigating impacts from pipelines in order to fund Government conservation departments.
We are asking you to please contact your Legislators!
Also please contact the members on the lists below to express the importance of fully funding state conservation programs and keeping mitigation money focused on addressing impacts from pipelines, power-lines and other developments. These 13 individuals will work over the next week to hammer out the differences in the House and Senate budgets. Please call, write, or visit the conferees!
-Senator Norment (Co-Chair), 804-698-7503, email@example.com
-Senator Hanger (Co-Chair), 804-698-7524, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Howell, 804-698-7532, email@example.com
-Senator Saslaw, 804-698-7535, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Newman, 804-698-7523, email@example.com
-Senator Ruff, 804-698-7515, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Wagner, 804-698-7507, email@example.com
-Delegate Jones (Chairman), 804-698-1076, DelCJones@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Peace, 804-698-1097, DelCPeace@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Knight, 804-698-1081, DelBKnight@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Garrett, 804-698-1023, DelSGarrett@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Torian, 804-698-1052, DelLTorian@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Sickles, 804-698-1043, DelMSickles@house.virginia.gov
Virginia Outdoors Foundation: Senate: Removes $2 million in General Fund each year. Senate rationale: VOF was awarded approximately $40 million through two recent mitigation agreements, thereby reducing the need for additional State investment. Recommendation: Restore $2 million per year to VOF. Cutting VOF by $2 million a year would shut down VOF. The mitigation money cannot be used for general operations except relating to management of the mitigation money. VOF background: VOF is Virginia’s leader in land conservation, protecting more than 800,000 acres in 107 counties and independent cities. VOF was created by the General Assembly in 1966.
Land Preservation Tax Credit, both houses: Recommends $20k individual cap on usage of credits. Budget writers say this will equal $6.6 million in savings per year. Recommendation: Allow individual use of credits to go to $50K as planned. There is no documentation that this cap will equal $6.6 million in annual savings. It appears that the $20K cap is hurting the market for tax credits when landowners sell their credits. Further, landowners put their property under easement in 2017 with the understanding that the limit would go back to $50k – to change the rules on them now after they have permanently preserved their land is unfair.
Virginia Land Conservation Funding: The Virginia Land Conservation Fund was reduced from $4.5M to $1.5M in the Senate, while the House eliminates all funding in the first year and restores to $4.5M in the 2nd year. Recommendation: $4.5 million per year for VLCF as recommended in the Governor’s budget. The settlement agreements represent compensation of damages to the resources. VLCF should be unaffected by the settlement – they are two different things with two different intents. VLCF background: VLCF represents the Commonwealth’s commitment to conservation. VLCF provides state matching grants on a competitive basis for the protection of open spaces and parks, natural areas, historic areas, and farmland and forest preservation in all areas of the Commonwealth. VLCF leverages local, federal, and private investment for natural resource conservation by paying no more than 50% of the project costs (state agencies are not required to provide a match). At least 50% of funding must be used for projects with public access. Projects are weighted on criteria such as a priority in Virginia Outdoors Plan or local comprehensive plan; water quality value; and public access. Projects receive more points if they provide riparian buffers.
The Department of Conservation & Recreation and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. We are concerned about tying the agencies’ hands, and that flexibility is needed to be able to acquire key pieces of land when they become available.
The National Park Service (NPS) is considering a steep increase in entrance fees at seventeen of their most popular and beloved national parks during their peak seasons, which includes Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. If the proposal moves forward, Shenandoah National Park's fees would rise from the current $25 per vehicle to $70 per vehicle between June 1 and October 31 each year.
We are asking you to voice your opposition to this proposal because:
We all recognize that the NPS is drastically underfunded. As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated in justifying the increased fee, our national parks are ailing and have acquired a maintenance backlog of roughly $12 billion. Instead of asking the American public to shoulder this burden, a proposal before Congress now, the National Park Service Legacy Act, would allow a more substantial and sustainable investment in our parks. We need to urge Congress to put this bill on the president’s desk and pass a budget that puts more money, not less, into our national parks.
The NPS is accepting public comments on the entrance fee increase proposal through December 22. Please submit your comments at the NPS’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website.
S.1975, The Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017 passed favorably out of the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday! Thanks to those who sent in support letters on short notice.
ACTION ALERT: By Thursday (11/09) morning, tell Senator Kaine you support S.1975, The Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017
Let Senator Tim Kaine know that you support S. 1975, Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017: a bill to designate additions to the Rich Hole Wilderness and the Rough Mountain Wilderness of the George Washington National Forest and would like to thank him for introducing this important piece of legislation.
Please send your notes of support to Senator Kaine's office by this Thursday morning (11/9/2017).
Send comments to: Nick_Barbash@kaine.senate.gov
Senator Kaine's press release about the bill can be found here: https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/kaine-and-warner-introduce-bill-to-protect-lands-in-bath-county
ACTION ALERT: Comments due November 6th on the North Shenandoah Mountain Restoration and Management project Scoping Notice.
The U. S. Forest Service has released the long-awaited Scoping Notice for the North Shenandoah Mountain Restoration and Management project. The 103,000-acre project is located in northwestern Rockingham County and the Beech Lick Knob Wilderness candidate is within the project’s footprint.
The Virginia Wilderness Committee supports the goals of the project and the collaborative nature used for its development. The project will incorporate many different treatment options including active management activities under one large umbrella document.
If you’re interested in commenting on the project, here are a few bullet points to consider:
COMMENTS ARE DUE NOVEMBER 6th
Email comments to:
Be sure to note the name of the project in the subject line of the email (i.e. North Shenandoah Mtn. Project).
Write comments to:
USDA Forest Service
ATTN: Karen Overcash, Project Leader
5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019
Thank you for your help!
Photo of Beech Lick Knob Wilderness candidate by Alicia Ygarza
The Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017, a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner
Press Release from the Virginia Wilderness Committee
For Immediate Release: October 24, 2017
Contact: Mark Miller, Executive Director, (540) 460-0593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New Bill to Expand Protected Wilderness Areas in GW National Forest
Lexington, VA – The Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017, (https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/kaine-and-warner-introduce-bill-to-protect-lands-in-bath-county) a new bill introduced by Senator Tim Kaine and co-sponsored by Senator Mark Warner, would protect 5,600 acres of Virginia’s George Washington National Forest as Wilderness. Expanding the already established Rich Hole and Rough Mountain Wildernesses will create a nearly unbroken wild area of over 20,000 acres. These lands are already part of the national forest, and the Wilderness designation would permanently protect these remarkable places, located in the scenic, rugged territory surrounding Rough Mountain and Mill Mountain in southeastern Bath County.
"The introduction of this bill is the direct result of years of hard work by the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative. The Collaborative includes representatives from a variety of interests, including the timber industry, wildlife managers, sportsman’s groups, forestry consultants, conservation organizations, and recreational groups, all of whom are working together to meet very different goals,” said Virginia Wilderness Committee Executive Director Mark Miller. “This expanded Wilderness area will benefit wildlife, water quality, recreation, and local tourism and is a win-win for all those stakeholders involved."
Wilderness areas provide excellent habitat for wildlife that benefit from large, intact areas of old growth or mature forest. The Rich Hole area, which contains beautiful old growth hardwood forests, is home to one of the largest black bear populations in Virginia.
These Wilderness additions were recommended by the U.S. Forest Service in its 2014 management plan. Both the GW Stakeholder Collaborative and Bath County, where these areas are located, support this bill.
Formed to offer input on the 2014 forest plan, the GW Stakeholder Collaborative reached consensus on a set of recommendations for protection of core, intact areas of the forest, such as these Wilderness areas, and for increased forest management in other, more accessible areas on the periphery of the forest. The collaborative continues to work together and with the U.S. Forest Service and other interested parties towards those goals.
A Forest Service project called the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project, which is now being carried out, is an example of that collaborative work. The project, located on GW Forest lands in the lower Cowpasture River watershed, provides active management in the more accessible areas of the national forest, including: timber harvest, forest restoration, prescribed fire, stream restoration, and an American Chestnut restoration site. This balanced, collaborative approach is a win-win for management, recreation, restoration and Wilderness.
FAQ For Background: What is Wilderness?
(Washington, D.C., August 21, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Tony Tooke will serve as the new Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18 and currently is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue this statement:
“The Forest Service will be in good hands with the U.S. Forest Service’s own Tony Tooke whose knowledge of forestry is unmatched. Tony has been preparing for this role for his whole professional life, and at a time when we face active and growing fires, his transition into leadership will be seamless. He will oversee efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs. His focus will be on ensuring we are good neighbors and are managing our forests effectively, efficiently, and responsibly, as well as working with states and local governments to ensure the utmost collaboration. No doubt, the stewardship of our forests is an awesome and sacred responsibility, and no one knows that better than Tony who has dedicated his career to this noble cause,” said Secretary Perdue.
Tony Tooke Biography:
Tony Tooke is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service. Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18, including many assignments in Region 8 and the Washington Office (WO).
He is responsible for 3,100 employees, an annual budget exceeding $400 million, 14 national forests, and two managed areas, which encompass more than 13.3 million acres in 13 states and Puerto Rico.
His previous position in Washington, DC was Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System; with oversight of Lands and Realty, Minerals and Geology, Ecosystem Management Coordination, Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, the National Partnership Office, and Business Administration and Support Services.
As Associate Deputy Chief, Tooke was the Forest Service Executive Lead for Environmental Justice; Farm Bill implementation; and implementation of the Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Improvement Strategy. Another priority included implementation of a new planning rule for the National Forest System.
Also in the WO, Tooke served as Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination, Deputy Director for Economic Recovery, and Assistant Director for Forest Management.
Prior to 2006, Tooke served as Deputy Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in Florida as well as District Ranger assignments at the Talladega NF in Alabama, the Oconee NF in Georgia, and the DeSoto NF in Mississippi. His other field assignments were Timber Management Assistant, Other Resource Assistant, Silviculturist, and Forester on six Ranger Districts in Mississippi and Kentucky.
Tooke grew up on a small 200-acre farm in Detroit, AL. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Forestry from Mississippi State University. He was in the Forest Service’s inaugural class of the Senior Leadership Program, and he has completed the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.
Please join us on Saturday, August 5 at 10 am
at the Dickerman Farm, 228 Old Parkersburg Turnpike, Swoope VA 24479
(Rt. 42, 6 mi S of Churchville, R onto Rt. 688 at church, .8 mi, then L at ribbons).
Agenda: election of officers, annual report, updates on our major Wilderness efforts, and bylaw changes.
Bring lunch, a folding chair, and a thirst for the inspiration of wild places!
See you there!