On Tuesday, May 3, a section of the James River Face Wilderness was dedicated as part of the Old Growth Forest Network. The forest in this 1,620 acre tract on the Belfast Trail headed up to the Devils Marbleyard is approximately 140 years old. VWC Executive Director, Mark Miller, was present and spoke at the dedication.
Warblers & Wildflowers
Date: Saturday, May 7
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Place: Augusta Springs Wetlands and Braley Pond
Leaders: Virginia Master Naturalists
Find more information through the link below
Celebrate Mother Nature - Friends of Shenandoah Mountain
Nature Walk on Shenandoah Mountain
Date: Saturday, May 14
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Place: Shenandoah Mountain Trail at Rt. 250 (see map)
Leaders: Henry and Becky Wilbur
Find more information and register through the link below
Nature Walk on Shenandoah Mountain - Friends of Shenandoah Mountain
Bird Walk at Braley Pond
Senators Kaine and Warner Introduce Legislation to Establish Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area
Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center, Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, and Virginia Wilderness Committee
For Immediate Release: March 23, 2022
Eric Hilt, Southern Environmental Law Center,
615-622-1199 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Cameron, Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, 540-234-6273 or email@example.com
Mark Miller, Virginia Wilderness Committee,
540-460-0593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON D.C. — On Wednesday, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Shenandoah Mountain Act of 2022, which would designate more than 92,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest as the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area. If enacted, the National Scenic Area will preserve majestic forests, spectacular vistas, and more than 150 miles of trails on the western edge of the Shenandoah Valley.
The new designation would allow forest visitors to continue enjoying these incredible lands – which are separate from and to the west of Shenandoah National Park – as they do today, while prohibiting logging and industrial development like gas drilling and pipeline construction.
“National Scenic Areas strike a great balance between recreation and preservation,” Friends of Shenandoah Mountain Co-Chair Lynn Cameron said. “This unique designation ensures that hunters, hikers, anglers, mountain bikers, and many others will be able to continue to enjoy the exceptional landscapes for generations to come.”
The proposal has the support of more than 400 local businesses, organizations, and faith groups who recognize the immense benefits the new designation will have on nearby communities. Rockingham and Augusta Counties, as well as the nearby cities of Staunton and Harrisonburg, have also endorsed the proposal. The U.S. Forest Service – which recommended designation of a national scenic area and wilderness areas on Shenandoah Mountain in 2014 – estimates that visitors to national forests in Virginia generate $1.4 billion a year. The Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area will attract even more visitors and provide a boost to the region’s growing tourism industry.
“This bill is the product of 18 years of collaborative work from an incredibly diverse group of local conservationists, recreation groups, timber industry representatives, hunters, and anglers. Over that time, people with different outlooks on forest management came together and agreed that this exceptional place deserves the permanent protection that a National Scenic Area will provide,” Friends of Shenandoah Mountain Co-Chair Thomas Jenkins said.
“The Shenandoah Mountain area is one of the largest stretches of undeveloped land east of the Mississippi River, and boasts some of the most spectacular, uninterrupted views in the Southern Appalachians,” Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Kristin Davis said. “Designating this as a National Scenic Area will protect these special public lands and all they have to offer.”
The Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area would also include four Wilderness Areas, totaling around 28,000 acres of new Wilderness, which would have the highest level of protection public lands can receive. Wilderness Areas are popular among people in the South, and a recent study showed 88 percent of Southerners surveyed said they support more Wilderness designations.
“Wilderness Areas are some of the nation’s least developed lands and offer a one-of-a-kind experience to visitors looking for solitude. These protections are becoming increasingly important as more and more areas – especially in the Eastern US – are being rapidly developed, leaving fewer pristine and untouched landscapes,” Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee, said.
Important natural resources would also be protected by Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area, which lies within a biodiversity hotspot. The area is home to black bear, wild turkey, more than 250 species of birds, and many other species, including rare or endangered species that only live in the Shenandoah Mountain area. Creating this designation would help preserve these wildlife and plant habitats, allowing visitors to continue to enjoy the plants and animals that make this area unique. The National Scenic Area designation will also protect important water sources for people living in Harrisonburg, Staunton, and many other towns and communities downstream.
Introducing the Shenandoah Mountain Act of 2022 in the United States Senate is just the first step in establishing these much-needed protections for this extraordinary area. In order to permanently protect Shenandoah Mountain, Congress must pass this important bill, and send it to the President for his signature.
Wilderness and National Scenic Area FAQs
Some of our most spectacular federal lands are designated as National Scenic Areas and Wilderness areas. While there are some key differences between them, there are many similarities:
4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals throws out federal approvals for the MVP to cross the Jefferson National Forest.
Mountain Valley Pipeline Loses Permit to Cross Through Jefferson National Forest
By Laurance Hammack
January 25, 2022
The Roanoke Times
For the second time, a federal appeals court has thrown out government approvals for a natural gas pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest. A written decision Tuesday from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marked the latest of many setbacks for the Mountain Valley Pipeline since construction began in 2018.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly predict — and to prevent — erosion and sedimentation caused by building the massive infrastructure project, a three-judge panel for the court found. Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in the unanimous decision that the agencies “erroneously failed to account for real-world data suggesting increased sedimentation along the pipeline route.” The ruling sends the permit back to the Forest Service and BLM for reconsideration. The first time the court did that, in July 2018, it took about two years for the agencies to approve a second permit — which now has also been found lacking by the Fourth Circuit.
In its 29-page opinion, the court also ruled that the Forest Service failed to comply with its 2012 Planning Rule and that it prematurely authorized the crossings of some streams in the national forest. “Again the courts have served as a backstop for agencies that failed to protect the public and our resources from this dangerous and destructive project,” David Sligh of Wild Virginia, one of the environmental groups that challenged the permit, said in a statement
“The Forest Service and BLM have now been shown to have ignored important scientific information and bypassed their own rules for the second time, all to allow a private corporation to use and abuse the public resources they are supposed to protect and preserve for us all.” Efforts to reach the Forest Service were unsuccessful Tuesday. Although much of the 303-mile pipeline has been completed, it has not been allowed to pass through a 3.5-mile section of the Jefferson National Forest in Giles and Montgomery counties. Mountain Valley also lacks a final permit to cross the remaining streams and wetlands in its path from northern West Virginia, through the New River and Roanoke valleys, to connect with an existing pipeline near the North Carolina line. Other approvals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are also being challenged in court by opponents of the deeply controversial project. On Tuesday, Mountain Valley spokeswomen Natalie Cox wrote in an email that the joint venture of five energy companies is “thoroughly reviewing the Court’s decision regarding MVP’s crossing permit for the Jefferson National Forest and will be expeditiously evaluating the project’s next steps and timing considerations.” Mountain Valley has previously said it is on track to finish the $6.2 billion project by this summer.
Opponents hope Tuesday’s decision will at least delay completion once again, and perhaps be the final nail in the coffin they long for. “This is a big hit in the impending downfall of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project,” Russell Chisholm, co-chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition, said in a statement. “If MVP is unfit for the protected Jefferson National Forest, it is unfit for our waters, our land, and our communities, full stop.” Since 2018, inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have found nearly 400 violations of erosion and sediment control regulations. Mountain Valley has blamed the problems on record rainfalls. When the Fourth Circuit threw out the first permit to pass through the Jefferson National Forest in 2018, it said the Forest Service was too accepting of Mountain Valley’s assurances that burying a 42-inch diameter pipe along steep slopes would not cause major problems with muddy runoff. Authoring the court’s opinion in that case as well, Thacker wrote:
“American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forest lands.”
Some questioned if the court’s second opinion will be enough to kill a project that has seen other permits rejected, only to have them re-issued by federal and state agencies. “I think it’s extremely unlikely that this decision will serve as a deathblow to the project,” said Josh Price, vice president of energy policy at Capstone, a global policy analysis firm for corporate and investor clients. “The issues identified by Fourth Circuit should be easily resolvable by the agencies,” Price, who has followed Mountain Valley from the outset, wrote in an email. “We only have a 5% probability that MVP will be cancelled.” More likely, he said, the pipeline’s completion will be pushed back to the middle of next year.
Mountain Valley Pipeline loses permit to cross through Jefferson National Forest | Local News | roanoke.com
We wanted to share this beautiful piece written by VWC member, Paul Torrence, honoring two of our heroes, E.O Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy. Paul's involvement with Virginia Wilderness dates back to 1970 when he scouted potential Wilderness candidates in Shenandoah National Park in the run-up to passage of the Eastern Wilderness Act in 1975. Paul currently lives in New York but is still engaged in helping VWC protect more wild places on federal public land in Virginia and secure the Little River mineral rights on Shenandoah Mountain.
THE WILDERNESS LAND TRUST HONORS TWO ICONIC CONSERVATION CHAMPIONS
By Paul Torrence, board member, The Wilderness Land Trust
If you forgot to sign up to be a VWC member in 2021, you can find our end-of-year newsletter on the website, here. If you would like to receive our newsletter in a timelier fashion, in either your inbox or mailbox, please sign up here. Exciting things will be happening for Virginia public lands in 2022, stay tuned!
In celebration of Veterans Day this Thursday, November 11, Shenandoah National Park is offering a Fee Free Day. This is the last free day of the year. Go out and enjoy Virginia's public land.
Today, November 3, 2021, we advocate for older forest protections. We ask President Biden to follow through on the promise to “lead by our example at home” by protecting mature and old growth forests from logging on federal lands.
President Biden is currently attending the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow, Scotland. Before he left, VWC, along with 127 other environmental groups, delivered a letter to the White House asking that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management stop the logging of older forests and trees on public lands. The correspondence specifically asks for this commitment to be part of the United States’ larger climate goals.
“Advocating for Stewardship – Tips, Tools and Practical Techniques for the Wilderness Steward”
National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance Annual Conference
November 15 - 18
Over the course of a few days you can immerse yourself in wilderness learning, networking with the wilderness stewardship community, and exploring the mid-Appalachian country around Roanoke, Virginia.
Most importantly, you can hear presentations from some of the best in the field, including VWC's Executive Director, Mark Miller, former VWC President and current VWC board member, Lynn Cameron, and current VWC board member, Tom Engle.
To sign up and find out more about the conference, go to https://www.wildernessalliance.org/2021_nww
"During National Wilderness Month, let us strengthen our connection to the American wilderness areas, support their designation and protection, and work to preserve the stories they tell, the memories they create, and the heritage they reflect for all Americans for generations to come."
Thank you, President Biden!
Read the full Presidential Proclamation here: A Proclamation on National Wilderness Month, 2021 | The White House