Rally held in Elkins to protect trees within Monongahela National Forest

ELKINS, W.Va. — Conservation advocates are urging federal officials to protect mature and old-growth trees in the Upper Cheat River within the Monongahela National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a project that would clearcut 3,500 acres of mature, old-growth trees in the area, according to John Coleman with the Horseshoe Run Community group.

Coleman told MetroNews the project would log forests on very steep slopes, leading to increased risk of flooding and sediment deposition in the rivers and streams.

“Living inside the project boundary, a bunch of us here in the community are concerned about the flooding and a number of other things that would be a result of this project,” Coleman said.

Coleman joined advocates with Speak For The Trees Too, West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club, Friends of Blackwater, West Virginia Environmental Council and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy for an afternoon rally outside the U.S. Forest Service office in Elkins on Monday.

“The community here is trying to negotiate with the Forest Service to improve the project in some ways and maybe reduce some of the cutting on the sleep slopes, but we actually haven’t heard back from the Forest Service,” he said.

In addition to flooding concerns, Coleman said he’s also worried about invasive weeds that are coming off the national forest.

“Unfortunately, they got planted back in the 1970s and 1980s. The forest service planted a lot of shrubs for wildlife habitat, but unfortunately those have spread across not only the national forest, but off into our farm, others farms and people’s property,” he said.

The forest provides clean drinking water and flood protection for communities, wildlife habitat for endangered species and miles of trails to explore the outdoors, Coleman said.

“We get our drinking water right off the forest. The national forest is 50-75 feet behind our house and our spring is right there, so I would really like the forest to spend some time figuring out how to protect people’s drinking water supply,” he said.

Advocates also fear that opening the canopy will increase temperatures in cold-water streams that native brook trout require for their survival. The move would impact important habitat for other species like long-eared bats and hellbender salamanders.

Monday’s rally was part of a nationwide effort to protect trees in national forests.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Forest Service wrote in an email to MetroNews on Monday, “We continue working jointly with our colleagues at the Department of Interior to both determine definitions and complete an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management by April, 2023, as tasked in Executive Order 14072. Synthesizing old-growth forest information on a national scale is a critical first step to informing further science questions and future management actions.”

More News

WVU transition begins to come into focus
A campus conversation was held earlier this week.
May 28, 2023 - 1:14 pm
As pipeline nears completion, West Virginia Rivers pushes against expedited approval
West Virginia Rivers is among the environmental groups promoting a June 8 protest in front of the White House.
May 28, 2023 - 11:48 am
Crews respond to an apartment building structure fire
The blaze was reported by emergency dispatchers in the 5600 block of Noyes Avenue southeast around 8:30 pm.
May 28, 2023 - 10:55 am
Two consecutive Huntington shootings taking place over the weekend
May 28, 2023 - 10:51 am