Mon National Forest Plan and Wilderness Campaign Update
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by Matt Keller |
The Mon National Forest Plan public comment period results were quite clear: Protect our remaining wildlands and streams!
Following a public comment period last fall on their draft management plan revision, the Monongahela National Forest is scheduled to release their final forest plan in mid-September. The results of the public comment period should have sent a very clear message to the Forest Service: Protect our remaining wildlands and streams!
Of the 13,000 individuals that took the time to submit formal comments, over 93% urged the Forest Service to select Alternative 3 which recommended many more Wilderness area designations (including special areas like Seneca Creek, Spice Run, Big Draft, Dolly Sods to Congress than does their preferred Alternative 2 which only 3% of respondents favored. Additionally most of those in favor of Alternative 3 also supported the areas in the Citizens Wilderness Proposal but not Alternative 3 such as North Fork Mountain and Middle Mountain.
It is hoped that the Forest Service will take these comments seriously and that they will be reflected in the final forest plan. This would include not just more Wilderness recommendations but more lands protected under the 6.2 or primitive backcountry recreation management prescription as well as better protection for our trout streams, soil and wildlife. The Mons wild lands, streams and wildlife that rely on both are immeasurable in value and deserve the highest level of protection possible. Those that cared enough about the forest to send in there comments seem to feel the same way.
While it is unclear what the Forest Service will ultimately change in its final plan, one thing is for certain. West Virginias Congressional Delegation will have the last say on what areas should be protected through wilderness designation and have the ability to designate far more than what the Forest Service recommends. They can assure that special places such as Seneca Creek, Spice Run, the proposed Dolly Sods Expansion, Big Draft, East Fork of Greenbrier and others can be kept just like they are for current and future generations to enjoy.
As you may know, the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition has been working hard to make sure these special places are protected for several years. We started from scratch really with volunteers on the ground doing inventories of areas that were likely to qualify for wilderness. This work, along with extensive meetings with stakeholders that care about the fate of these wild areas led to the development of the Citizens Wilderness Proposal for the Monongahela National Forest. 13 areas and expansions to 2 existing areas are included which cover about 143,000 acres.
The coalition has been working hard to spread the word about the opportunity to protect these areas and building support. We will continue to push over the next few months with the hope that with the release of the final forest plan, the final hurdle towards getting legislation introduced will have been cleared. Much work will need to be done to ensure that a good bill is introduced and passed.
There is much you can do to helpthis become a reality! First and foremost, contact WVs congressional delegation and let them know you want wilderness on the Mon protected.
Secondly, get involved with the local wilderness groups that are now meeting regularly. Groups are formed in North Central WV, Pocahontas and Greenbrier County, Randolph and Tucker County, the Eastern Panhandle and Charleston. Contact Matt Keller at 304-864-5530 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
If you like to get something started in your area or even just bring together a group of friends to write letters, we can send you a Wild Mon House Party kit which includes our video and info on having the party. Contact Matt as well if you are interested.