PARKS: Bush admin supportive of
Eric Bontrager, E&E Daily reporter
The Bush administration said yesterday it would support a bid by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) to designate 47,000 acres of national forest in
Joel Holtrop, deputy chief of the National Forest System, told the House National Parks Subcommittee that the areas proposed in Rahall's H.R. 5151 contain "a special kind of wilderness" that warrants protection.
The bill would increase the amount of wilderness in the
A wilderness designation generally prohibits motorized activity, timber harvests or natural resource development. The areas are popular destinations for outdoor activities like mountain biking, hunting and hiking.
"There are some people who say a wilderness designation precludes multiple use," said subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "Wilderness is a multiple-use resource."
Potential wilderness areas include "Big Draft," a 5,200-acre parcel near White Sulphur Springs and the Greenbrier Resort; "Cheat Mountain," an 8,000-acre parcel that is home to the Cheat Mountain salamander and West Virginia northern flying squirrel; and a 12,000-acre expansion of the Cranberry Wilderness, which would help create the largest area of nonmotorized recreational opportunity in the state.
A spokeswoman for Rahall, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said the bill reflects the Forest Service recommendations in its 2006 forest management plan. In the plan, the Forest Service recommended four of the areas be studied for wilderness designation, while the other three areas -- Big Draft, Spice Run and the Dolly Sods Expansion -- were made semi-primitive non-motorized areas, which permit low-impact uses like mountain biking.
Holtrop said there are some minor boundary issues for the wilderness areas that may need to be resolved before the bill is enacted, including adjusting for some mapping errors and adding offsets for power lines and other artificial features.
Most of the witnesses representing
"Protecting wilderness helps diversify and stabilize economies by attracting and retaining business, residents and a local workforce in addition to generating travel and tourism, one of the fastest growing sections of West Virginia's economy," said Michael Price of West Virginia AFL-CIO.
Two witnesses, however, expressed concern that the bill does not include other areas for wilderness designation, including Seneca Creek and East Fork of the Greenbrier.
"Like the other special places included in the legislation, these areas represent some of the last truly wild places in the east and they deserve protection," said Gil Willis, owner and operator of the Elk River Inn and Restaurant.
Since 2004, a coalition of hunters, fishers, businesses, lawmakers and religious leaders in the state have supported a citizen initiative calling for more wilderness, but the Rahall bill falls short of the citizens' wilderness proposal, which included more than 143,000 acres in 15 areas.
This Bill gets "written up" on April 1st.
The Congresswoman (Capito) whose district Spruce Knob is in, is unhappy about the late insertion of Seneca Creek into the Bill without her knowledge. It was a backdoor deal between Gov. Manchin and the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition. Her office got the phones and e-mails pounded the other day by bikers after Chris got the word out. So much that she's deflected all the calls now to our own district reps (who probably don't care much about this issue). The only hope is that she stands her ground and gets Seneca Creek removed. The support of anyone living in her district is critical. Her district is shown below. If you know anyone who lives in her district, get their help.