Sportsmen the Tree Huggers are at it again!

Posted on 05/31/2012

By Charlie Nichols

The poor sportsmen of West Virginia; sometimes it seems they can never get a break. A break from the intrusion of the radical environmentalists into habitat management projects for wildlife planned on the Monongahela National Forest that is. Between the Upper Greenbrier Project and the call for a new National Monument, the Forest Service biologist have a difficult time doing anything positive about wildlife habitat improvements on the Mon. More old growth, more wildernesses in waiting, less wildlife openings and almost no early successional habitat seem to be the mantra of the Tree Huggers. If I seem bitter about it, hell I am!

If you were not aware of the Upper Greenbrier North Project then shame be upon you. Seems the sportsmen are always out hunting and fishing, remaining too busy to know about and comment on habitat improvement projects that the staff of the Monongahela National Forest attempt to pursue in our own benefit. I know it is boring to read proposals compared to hunting grouse in a beautiful covert of early successional beech or aspen, but if we keep this up there will be no early successional habitat to hunt in. No snowshoe rabbit habitat, squirrel, woodcock, white tail deer, butterfly, turkey poults, oh the list is long. Then the wailing and the caterwauling begin from the individual sportsmen who were too busy to join one of the outdoor conservation groups fighting for your hunting heritage. They don't have the time or would rather spend the money on themselves than help a group working for the whole.

Upper Greenbrier North would be a tremendous habitat improvement project for hunters and anglers. Some of the anglers though do not care about hunting, in fact they would not even allow fishing if it isn't strictly catch and release. Therefore they and their tree hugging buddies want riparian buffer zones that stretch from ridge to ridge. To heck with the wildlife clearings, roads for linear wildlife habitat or, may the wood gods forbid, a 10 acre shelter wood harvest to benefit grouse, woodcock, turkey, deer, song birds, butterflies, snow shoe rabbits and insects.

Upper Greenbrier North Project was to include a commercial timber cut of 2700 plus acres. There is the rub; commercial harvest! How dare the USFS do something that benefits rural West Virginia! Sawmills and lumberjacks should give way to working in a convenience store selling freeze dried meals for the backpackers. A northern flying squirrel was endangered, a way of life in the mountains of West Virginia is now almost extinct; specifically, the timber industry that provided good paying jobs and early successional habitat for the more than 70 habitat dependent early successional species of wildlife. Until the tree huggers came along.

From the USFS Mon Forest folks: "The Upper Greenbrier North (UGN) project area is located in the upper part of the Greenbrier River watershed, in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The project area is on the Greenbrier Ranger District and includes four sub watersheds: Little River; Headwaters East Fork Greenbrier River; West Fork Greenbrier River; and Outlet East Fork Greenbrier River. Approximately 200 adjacent acres to the north, in the Upper Laurel Fork drainage, are also included in the project area. In the UGN project area boundary, an estimated 69,600 acres (81 percent) are National Forest System (NFS) lands, and 15,800 acres (19 percent) are private lands. Activities will take place on approximately 8,340 acres, all of which are located on NFS lands (see project area and activity maps in the appendices to this Decision Notice). A large project area was chosen to allow better consideration and analysis of cumulative impacts and landscape ecology factors such as spruce-hardwood ecosystem connectivity, age class distribution, and watershed improvement needs and opportunities."

Well the key words to the above is sportsmen were going to see some habitat on a large scale ("69,600 acres") that could turn around the declines in the early successional habitat ("age class distribution") we have been seeing on the Forest for the last 25 years. However, the acreage mentioned had to rile the radical environmentalist. One sportsmen's conservation group commented affirming the benefits of the project, but every one of the environmental groups commented opposing the project. Surprisingly the Forest Service professionals decided to go ahead and put some boots on the ground and create wildlife habitat (the easy option is to do nothing and let the Forest turn more old growth; eventually Nature will take care of the old growth and make its own early successional habitat thru lightening and fire in the decaying and insect laden infected old growth). The environmental groups are now appealing the decision and it will go to court or the Mon professionals will give up. The sportsmen will continue in blissful ignorance thinking someone else will take care of the problem of no deer or grouse in the mountains, fewer wild turkey than in the 1980s and 1990s, and grouse coverts can go the way of the bobwhite quail, almost extinct in the wild!

Groups that are demanding Senator Manchin buy the Blackwater Canyon are now concerned about the cost of cutting 3000 acres of timber. In the words of the appeal filed by the Friends of Blackwater group: "Finally, the sheer scale and cost of the proposed project almost guarantees that the effects will be inadequately disclosed over the life of the project. There are many activities in the UGN Project which we support (road decommissioning and aquatic stream restoration), but given current federal budget constraints and the likely size of the budget on the MNF over the next 10-12 years we believe there is very little likelihood that the UGN Project would ever be implemented over that time period, or even one much longer." My words to the Friends of Blackwater: Do like the sportsmen and pay for the Canyon with your own money if you want it away from John Crites. We pay with license fees, stamps, Pittman Robertson taxes, and banquets where we buy art, guns, and hunting paraphernalia at more than cost to benefit our hunting heritage traditions. Turning the money over to the DNR and USFS to improve wildlife habitat or to even purchase public hunting areas!

A new National Monument, in West Virginia; sure that seems like a good idea, at least to one sportsmen's group, West Virginia Trout Unlimited. Hey these folks wanted more wilderness areas added to the Monongahela National Forest in 2006 also. They teamed up with the Sierra Club, American Rivers, Highlands Conservancy, and Wilderness Society to get Congressman Nick Joe Rahall to do an end run around the Forest Service, WV-DNR, WV Wildlife Federation, WV-NWTF and every other West Virginia Sportsmen's group to get their way in Congress also. They won, big time. Not ones to rest on their laurels the 1000 member strong organization now wants to increase the area around the Cranberry Wilderness to create a new National Monument. Don't worry hunters, you can hunt there just like you do in the wilderness, for animals that are not there in any significant numbers. No habitat management means no tree cutting. For a group that should know the benefits of woody debris in cold water streams they do not seem to appreciate the timber industry in the least. Mud in the streams always is blamed on the loggers, no longer existent in the mountains of West Virginia, but blamed just the same. No one in that group seems able to comprehend that streams and rivers do their work through erosion; wonder where the silt really comes from? The banks of the streams as they meander through the watershed and erode into the geology they began. There are some simple answers to complex questions but a National Monument is not one of those answers. Will the hunters speak out against this organization? Will they withdraw their memberships and ask the buddies to do the same? Simple answers to complex questions.

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