Continued input is moving planning along on the Lower Cowpasture Restoration Project
On Monday evening another public workshop was held to discuss the goals of the Lower Cowpasture Restoration Project. The project area covers about 100,000 acres of the eastern portions of Alleghany and Bath Counties.
Cully McCurdy from Marlinton attended the workshop. He is a Regional Wildlife Biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation and he works in both Virginia and West Virginia.
“The good thing about it is, this has been a collaborative effort from all user groups,” says McCurdy. “You know, there’s some folks that come in here, you know, beating their fists. They want this many thousand acres of timber cut and there’s other groups that don’t want anything cut. We’ve been meeting for a year and half as preservationists and conservationists and we’re starting to discuss each other’s different viewpoints and we’re trying to find a happy balance. And follow the science, but make people understand on both sides of the table why they feel the way they do. And it’s just that forthright effort through not only discussions, but through several field trips. You know maybe we still don’t agree on everything, but it’s a better understanding of where that user group is coming from and it’s helped developed a more mutual respect on all parts.”
The Lower Cowpasture Restoration Project includes about 12,000 acres of prescribed fire, watershed improvements in Simpson and Wilson Creeks, non-native invasive species management and wildlife habitat improvement.
Patrick Sheridan led the workshop. He’s the District Ranger on the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts.
“This evening was our first meeting with our stakeholder group since we released our proposed action,” says Sheridan. “So this is a big fork in the road in the process. We’ve officially released what we’re proposing to do. And what happens next is we identify the various kinds of issues and analyze the effects of what might happen if we were to implement that project out there. So we take a look at the effects on water, air and threatened endangered species. And at that point we have a range of alternatives and then present that back to the public.”
And the project also includes transportation work on roads, about seventeen miles of new trail construction, reintroduction of the American Chestnut and timber sales.
“And I think one of the biggest and most important things, that’s important to me is, you know, timber built this part of the world,” says McCurdy. “I mean, our listener area, you know timber, the history is so rich and vast and so much of our local economy depends on it and these people are suffering. And I think it’s really super important that we support that local industry and the different people that livelihoods depend on it. And we can do that through wise use and wise decisions, because timber is a renewable resource, and as long as we’re smart there’s huge benefits to creating that diversity on the landscape.”
“This is our meeting number six, I believe, spanning thirteen months,” says Sheridan. “And we probably had pushing forty folks out here and we’ve become very well acquainted with most of these individuals. I have to commend them for their interest and their ability to continue to come to meetings and participate. It’s really refreshing to find members of the public who are so interested in public lands. It’s amazing.”
In late October a draft environmental analysis will be completed and a public comment period will follow. And another public workshop on the Lower Cowpasture Restoration Project will be held in early November.