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Wilderness Campaign Moves Ahead
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by Matt Keller | 2004

Our draft proposal for new wilderness is nearly completed. Please write a letter of support!

As we move into spring, the Wilderness Coalition is nearing completion on a draft proposal for new wilderness areas on the Mon!  There are a few issues that remain to be worked out with various stakeholders that we are in the process of dealing with.  This issue of The Mountain State Sierran, as well as the past few, features articles about areas with very high wilderness potential.

As many of you are aware, the Mon National Forest is currently revising their management plan.  We’ve been working closely with them to make sure our potential wilderness areas are properly evaluated for wilderness recommendation.  We have engaged the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and are working with them to resolve potential conflicts regarding wildlife management and boundaries for potential new wilderness areas.

We recently met with staff for all five of our congressional delegation members and got very positive feedback regarding how we’ve conducted our wilderness work thus far.  All five members seem very open to continuing the dialog about a new wilderness bill for West Virginia.

This summer, we will be working hard to generate a tidal wave of support for our draft proposal.  We’ll be hitting the road and telling our story to a wide range of folks across the state and hopefully forming new alliances to strengthen our cause.   We hope to get many additional endorsements from a wide range of businesses, organizations and civic bodies and elected officials in the coming months.

The West Virginia Wilderness Coalition has recently produced a new brochure which provides general information about wilderness and why we need to protect more in the state.  We recently sent copies to all Sierra Club members so keep an eye out.  We are in the process of producing additional literature about wilderness and our campaign, much of it dealing with specific issues relevant to wilderness designation and many of the myths that surround it.

 If you haven’t done so already, please contact your elected officials in Washington D.C. in support of wild places on the Mon.   Be sure to tell them you want to see more designated wilderness and ask them to be a leader in crafting and introducing legislation to do just that.  If you have internet access, go to our website, http://www.wvwild.org, where you’ll find an easy way to contact our congressional delegation and Governor Wise.  Addresses and talking points for a letter can be found in this edition of the Sierran if you are not able (or willing!) to go online.  If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to contact me: Matt Keller, mattk@tws.org, 304-864-5530.

TALKING POINTS FOR A LETTER IN SUPPORT OF WILDERNESS
(Be sure to describe you personal experiences and connection with wild places on the Mon!)

·         
I support protection of significant new wilderness areas on the Monongahela National Forest (MNF).  Currently, just 78,000 acres - less than 9% - of the MNF is protected as Wilderness, well below the average for eastern National Forests.  Wilderness areas protect the headwaters of our rivers, the source of clean drinking water.  Also, forested watersheds control rain runoff to minimize flooding.  They provide ideal locations for hunting, fishing, backpacking and other forms of outdoor recreation in scenic and natural settings.

·          It has been 20 years since any new wilderness was designated in West Virginia.  Our current areas are a major tourist draw.  We are fortunate in WV to have wild areas left in the East that qualify for Wilderness.  Economically, we should take advantage of this opportunity to better compete with surrounding states for tourism dollars, as well as prevent overuse of our current areas.

·          Now is the time to designate additional wilderness areas in our state.  Benefits associated with designated wilderness are far reaching for the people of West Virginia, our wildlife populations and the land itself.  Protecting our last few remaining wilderness areas will ensure that present and future generations can use and enjoy parts of the forest in their natural state.

·          I strongly urge you to support efforts to designate new wilderness areas on the MNF and hope that you will be a leader in crafting legislation that will preserve our last remaining unprotected wild places.

Cor contact information for legislators, click here.

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