Legislation Introduced to Create Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area
According to a press release, on March 23, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine introduced the Shenandoah Mountain Act. It’s legislation to establish a 92,000-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area in Rockingham, Augusta, and Highland Counties. He was joined in introducing the legislation by Senator Mark R. Warner. National Scenic Areas are established by Congress to protect the scenic, historic, recreational and natural resources in specific areas, while allowing compatible uses such as outdoor recreation activities.
The Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area encompasses four Wilderness Areas, Skidmore Fork, Little River, Ramsey’s Draft, and Lynn Hollow, which includes ten peaks above 4,000 feet and 150 miles of trails to attract campers, hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, birders, and equestrians. The legislation also establishes a 5,764 acre wilderness area at Beech Lick Knob, located 10 miles north of the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area.
In addition to providing world class trails, the area includes headwaters for the Potomac and James Rivers and watershed that provides municipal drinking water sources for Harrisonburg, Staunton, and communities farther downstream. Cold mountain streams in the area are also a stronghold for native brook trout. The legislation would permanently protect those rivers and streams from industrial development, and also help safeguard populations of at-risk species, such as the Cow Knob and Shenandoah Mountain Salamanders, that are natural to the area.
In 2019, the tourism economy directly employed 5,365 people and generated $601 million in expenditures in Augusta, Rockingham, and Highland Counties, as well as Harrisonburg and Staunton. In addition to the direct benefits to tourism and other businesses, James Madison University scientists estimate that lands within the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area proposal already generate $13.7 million per year in other local benefits, including the value of the water supply and energy savings. Designation of the National Scenic Area would further grow this value.
Full text of the legislation is available here.