State Offers Alernative to Wilderness Bill


The public battle over Wilderness Areas in West Virginia appears to have

Dave Seville of the W.V. Wilderness Coalition looks over the Seneca Creek area, a plumb wilderness advocates want for Wilderness designation. 

shifted from Seneca Creek in Pendleton County to Cheat Mountain in Randolph and Pocahontas Counties.   

Sportsman’s groups have been adamantly opposed to creation of any new Wilderness areas in West Virginia because of the restrictions on wildlife management and motorized access.  However, the political pressure in Washington is forcing many in the state, including the Manchin Administration’s DNR to rethink the issue and stake out a new position.

"We looked at what was proposed, realizing there was going to be some additional land put into the Wilderness designation," said DNR Director Frank Jezioro.  "If we’re going to have some new wilderness land, let’s try to get what would best serve the hunters and fishermen in the state."

All five members of the West Virginia Congressional Delegation are backing the bill now proposed in the U.S. House.  The legislation would add land to three existing Wilderness areas and create four new ones. 

The Manchin Administration proposes an alternative.   

“Conserving West Virginia’s special places for this and future generations is one of my top priorities,” said Gov. Manchin. “I support wilderness designation for appropriate areas on our National Forests, but good decisions about wilderness require a site-by-site assessment of the positive and negative impacts of each designation.”

The state’s offering represents some apparent horse trading on the locations.   The most problematic of the currently proposed areas, from the DNR’s point of view, is Cheat Mountain.

"That’s extremely important to us because the Cheat Mountain area, all of the feeder streams draining out of there go into the Shaver’s Fork River," said Jezioro. "Probably a stream that with more liming and some additional improvements could be called the ’Madison River of the East.’"

The liming would be impossible if the area is designated Wilderness, since rules prohibit dump trucks hauling limestone into such areas.   

The state’s alternative also calls for the removal of Spice Run from the proposed Wilderness area.  

The olive branch to appease Wilderness advocates on the state’s alternative is Seneca Creek.  The area in Pendleton County is highly prized

Sportsmen fear wildlife feeding areas like these at Seneca Creek could be lost with Wilderness designation

for Wilderness designation by advocates.   The area is heavily fortified with limestone and has no need for acid treatment.   It’s also one of West Virginia‘s only naturally reproducing rainbow trout streams.   

Sportsmen’s groups, including West Virginia‘s Trout Unlimited State Council, opposed the Seneca Creek designation because of the ongoing wildlife management work in the area.  The area is currently classified as a Scenic Backcountry–with protection from logging and other development, but still allows wheeled vehicles for management work.   Jezioro says Seneca Creek is a trade-off.

"We realize we have to give the Wilderness Coalition something," said Jezioro. "That would forever protect that Seneca Creek drainage.  It’s something I think everybody agrees should be protected."

Jezioro says they are offering some adjusted boundaries that would still allow for active management of wildlife clearings on the Seneca Creek area even after the Wilderness designation.

The state’s proposed alternative concedes the additional acreage at Otter Creek, Dolly Sods, and Cranberry Wilderness Areas.   The state appears satisfied with a proposed area on Roaring Plains in Randolph, Tucker, and Grant counties for Wilderness classification, and the proposed area at Big Draft in Greenbrier County

The state’s alternative proposals have been forwarded to the Congressional delegation for consideration as the bill makes its way through Congress.  


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