WASHINGTON— Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of West Virginia that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Landscape conservation in the Canaan Valley and a partnership with the Boy Scouts to improve trails and other recreational facilities in the New River Gorge are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week’s report — two in every state — as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the state of West Virginia, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of West Virginia and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in West Virginia highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
West Virginia is the heart of the Central Appalachians, home to one of the healthiest, most biologically diverse temperate broadleaf forests on Earth and some of the largest intact forest blocks in the eastern United States. These forests shelter cool headwater streams that deliver clean water to larger rivers, like the Potomac and Ohio rivers, and ultimately millions of people. They also are at the doorstep of the urban East Coast — within one day’s drive of Washington, Baltimore, and New York City.
Collaborative conservation efforts to connect federal, state, and private land are essential to protecting critical wildlife-migration corridors and ultimately to sustaining a network of healthy land and waters that will provide the full range of benefits to people.
In West Virginia, the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of several federal and state conservation areas. Others include the Monogahela National Forest, Gauley River National Recreation Area, New River Gorge National River, and Bluestone National Scenic River. The Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, and others are working cooperatively in an effort to develop a management strategy to enhance the natural and recreational values of these related sites.
New River Gorge National River
The New River Gorge National River offers an unparalleled opportunity to acquaint young Americans with some of the best natural environments in the eastern United States.
The Boy Scouts of America have purchased 10,000 acres adjacent to the New River Gorge National River for the permanent home of their national jamboree, as well as a High Adventure base camp. The Boy Scouts plan a sustained volunteer program to support the National Park Service and estimates that boys and girls attending the jamboree and camp could provide more than 800,000 hours of service annually.
The volunteer efforts would lead to further improvements in water quality and access to water-based outdoor recreation, including fishing and boating, to benefit not only park visitors but also support the outdoor programming of the Boy Scouts.
This proposed BSA-NPS partnership aligns well with the park’s new management plan and with AGO objectives for youth engagement and outdoor education.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In West Virginia, for example, the Department could technical and financial assistance to acquire inholdings and buffers in the Canaan Valley and to create greater connectivity among protected lands.
Furthermore, the Department could work with partners and local, state, and federal agencies to conserve and manage public lands in this region more thoughtfully to enhance their natural and recreation values.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.