SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN NATIONAL FOREST SYSTEM LANDS WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE OF VIRGINIA AS WILDERNESS AREAS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS,
OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 19, 2000
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Serial No. 10661
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
LARRY COMBEST, Texas, Chairman
BILL BARRETT, Nebraska,
JOHN A. BOEHNER, Ohio
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
NICK SMITH, Michigan
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
HELEN CHENOWETH-HAGE, Idaho
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
KEN CALVERT, California
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
BOB RILEY, Alabama
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
DOUG OSE, California
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ERNIE FLETCHER, Kentucky
CHARLES W. STENHOLM, Texas,
Ranking Minority Member
GARY A. CONDIT, California
COLLIN C. PETERSON, Minnesota
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
SANFORD D. BISHOP, Jr., Georgia
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMARION BERRY, Arkansas
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRISTOPHER JOHN, Louisiana
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
KEN LUCAS, Kentucky
MIKE THOMPSON, California
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
JOE BACA, California
WILLIAM E. O'CONNER, JR., Staff Director
LANCE KOTSCHWAR, Chief Counsel
STEPHEN HATERIUS, Minority Staff Director
KEITH WILLIAMS, Communications Director
Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia, Chairman
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois,
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina,
Ranking Minority Member
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
JOE BACA, California
C O N T E N T S
H.R. 4646, to designate certain National Forest System lands of the State of Virginia as wilderness areas, and for other purposes
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, opening statement
Goodlatte, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, opening statement
Carr, David W., Jr., senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center, Charlottesville, VA
Cash, Kim T., lieutenant, Montebello Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Montebello, VA
Clark, Edward E., Jr., president, the Wildlife Center of Virginia
Dawson, Michael S., regional representative, central and southwest Virginia, Appalachian Trail Conference
Furnish, Jim, Deputy Chief, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Coleman, Doug, the Wintergreen Nature Foundation
Creasy, Jenifer L., director, Shenandoah Ecosystems Defense Group
Henderson, Jay, chairman, Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited
Kardan, Jay, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Lipford, Michael, vice-president, the Nature Conservancy
Murray, J.J., Virginia Wilderness Committee
Remington, Wayne David, president, Thomas Jefferson Chapter, Trout Unlimited
Smith, Sherry, Montebello Clean Mountain Coalition
Spencer, Edgar, co-president, Rockbridge Area Conservation Council
Staunton, Nicky, president-elect, Virginia Native Plant Society
Woolman, Marcia, president, Rapidan Chapter, Trout Unlimited
DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN NATIONAL FOREST SYSTEM LANDS WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE OF VIRGINIA AS WILDERNESS AREAS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Department Operations,
Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:10 a.m., in room 1300 of the Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Bob Goodlatte (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Clayton, Berry, Phelps, Hill, Baca.
Also present: Representative Goode.
Staff present: Brent Gattis, staff director, Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry; Wanda Worsham, clerk; Callista Gingrich, Ryan Flynn, and Quinton Robinson.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Mr. GOODLATTE. Good morning. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry to review H.R. 4646, a bill to designate certain National Forest System lands within the Commonwealth of Virginia as wilderness areas, will come to order.
The purpose of this hearing is to receive testimony and written statements in review of H.R. 4646. Fellow Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, a former member of this committee, introduced this legislation on June 13. To begin, I would like to acknowledge Mr. Goode for his work on this issue. Congressman Goode's hard work, persistence, and concerted effort on behalf of Virginia, has allowed this issue an opportunity to be heard, discussed, and hopefully resolved.
To that end, we have assembled today, uniquely qualified witnesses to provide insight into the need for H.R. 4646, and the current status of National Forest System lands within the State. I would like to thank all of our witnesses on behalf of the subcommittee for taking the time to be here today. I would like to also extend a special thanks to some who are constituents of mine who are here, including Mr. Ed Clark of Waynesboro, and Ms. Kim Cash of Montebello, VA. I appreciate your willingness to appear before the subcommittee to discuss this matter.
[H.R. 4646 follows:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. GOODLATTE. It is, at this time, my pleasure to recognize the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mrs. Clayton, of North Carolina.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Chairman Goodlatte. Today we will be hearing on H.R. 4646, the Virginia Wilderness Act. And we welcome the persons who have come together and we look forward to their testimony.
The Virginia Wilderness Act will designate roughly 11,000 acres of land as wilderness. Designation will assure that increasing population and expanding settlement does not occupy or modify certain areas within The Priest and Three Ridge areas of the George Washington National Forest. Mr. Chairman, by taking the steps to reserve The Priest and The Three Ridges in their natural condition, we will secure an enduring resource of wilderness for the American people and for the future.
Mr. Chairman, I know that the Forest Service and others have some concerns about the motorized equipment exemption, the language in H.R. 4646. And I know you support that, but there are some concerns about that. The Wilderness Act, as it is currently written, does not allow motorized equipment in wilderness except in the event of emergencies for the control of fire, insect, and disease.
However, the Forest Service policies allow the forest supervisors to approve the use of motorized equipment under emergency conditions. I believe that the Forest Service will testify as to how the approval process will actually work. I do think this is a bill worthy of consideration and I look forward to the witnesses as they proceed.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mrs. Clayton.
I am pleased to welcome our panel today. They include Mr. Jim Furnish, Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Mr. David W. Carr, Jr., senior attorney, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Charlottesville, VA; Mr. Michael S. Dawson, Appalachian Trail Conference, Newport, VA; Mr. Ed Clark, president, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Waynesboro, VA, and Ms. Kim T. Cash, Lieutenant, Montebello Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Montebello, VA.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are pleased to have all of your written statements made part of the record and we would like to receive your oral testimony at this point. And we would ask that each of you limit your testimony to 5 minutes. And we will begin with Mr. Furnish. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF JIM FURNISH, DEPUTY CHIEF, FOREST SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. FURNISH. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on H.R. 4646, a bill to designate certain National Forest System lands within the boundaries of the State of Virginia as wilderness areas and for other purposes.
I am Jim Furnish, Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, USDA Forest Service. The administration supports the intent of H.R. 4646, however, we would like to recommend that the subcommittee change the language pertaining to motorized access for emergencies and also to modify acreage figures to accurately reflect our most recent estimates.
Speaking on behalf of the candidacy of both these areas, the Forest Service is proud to recommend both The Priest and Three Ridges and we are delighted that Congress has taken the initiative to propose this wilderness bill. These contain some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Virginia and also the Appalachian Trail courses through both these proposed wilderness areas. And I think, as evidenced by our forest planning process, a consideration of these areasthey merit the recognition that has been proposed here in these bills.
I will really focus my attention on the particular concerns we have with respect to the use of motorized equipment in these proposed wilderness areas. Sections 4(c) and 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act provide generally that motor vehicles and motorized equipment should not be used in wilderness areas except in the event of emergencies and for the control of fire, insects, and disease.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our policies that have been in place for many years allow forest supervisors to approve the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport and the cutting of vegetation in wilderness areas under emergency conditions on a case-by-case basis. This policy also requires the Regional Forester to approve the use of tractors for the suppression of fires in wilderness.
We feel that the Wilderness Act and our Forest Service policy both adequately address the use of motorized or mechanized equipment and the cutting of vegetation in wilderness and that the language in section 1(b)(2) of H.R. 4646 is unnecessary. We recommend that the language be removed from this bill and that it be moved to the report language accompanying the bill.
In addition, the discrepancy in acreages between the proposed bill and the numbers mentioned earlier in this testimonyand I might mention, those. Our most recent acreages show 5,963 acres for The Priest recommended wilderness, in contrast to the 6,500 reported in the bill, and 4,608 for Three Ridges, as opposed to the 4,800. These refined figures are due to morea determination based on more accurate mapping of these areas since the forest plan recommendations were finalized in 1993.
In summary, both these areas are suitable for wilderness designation and they provide opportunities for solitude, spectacular vistas, challenging outdoor experiences. And the administration recommends their inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System and will support H.R. 4646 if amended, as I previously discussed.
I think the Forest Service has proven, through our history, to be a good steward of this responsibility to authorize motorized and mechanized equipment when appropriate and on a case-by-case basis. And I would be happy to provide case examples on questioning and be happy to discuss that in more detail later on. We do have detailed maps available here to reference if need be. And this concludes my testimony and look forward to any questions you might have. Thank you.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Furnish appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Furnish. Mr. Carr, we are pleased to have your testimony.
STATEMENT OF DAVID W. CARR, JR., SENIOR ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
Mr. CARR. Mr. Chairman, and, members of the subcommittee, my name is David Carr. I am an attorney from the Charlottesville, VA office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a non-profit environmental advocacy group that works to protect the environment in six southeastern States. We appreciate this opportunity to present oral and written testimony in support of the Virginia Wilderness Act of 2000 to designate The Priest and Three Ridges.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 launched a bold initiative to preserve the remaining wild places in our country. The act seeks to ensure that increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement, does not overrun all corners of our landscape. But protecting untrammeled areas has become a challenge in the East, where public lands are scarce and land development is booming.
Less than 5 percent of all existing wilderness acreage in the Eastoccurs in the East. As a result, the increasing populations of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions are sorely deprived of back country areas. Quite simply, our region has more people, more development pressure, and more recreation demand, but far less wilderness to go around.
The bill before you today is the first wilderness bill in Virginia since 1988. On average, about 18 percent of national forest acreage is designated wilderness nationwide, but only 3 percent of the George Washington National Forest is so designate. Yet, the George Washington is the closest national forest to Richmond, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We, in Virginia, are very fortunate to have two excellent national forest candidates for wilderness designation in Nelson County. The Priest and Three Ridges are prominent features of the Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Trail runs through both areas, and the parkway runs along the western boundary of Three Ridges.
The Forest Service recommended these two areas for wilderness study in the 1993 management plan. Since that time, the areas have been managed as if they were already federally designated wilderness.
Over 500 citizens from Nelson County and surrounding areas singed a petition presented to Congressman Goode supporting the wilderness. In addition, more than a dozen conservation groups from around the State have expressed their support, including the Virginia Wilderness Committee, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and the Wintergreen Nature Foundation.
Designating these two areas as protected wilderness should benefit Nelson County's growing tourism industry. The areas provide a scenic backdrop for much of the county and serve as a source of clean water for citizens and a thriving trout fishery.
As wilderness, these areas will also help accommodate growing recreation demand in Virginia. They will remain open to hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and other traditional recreation uses. Their protection will also ensure that future generations can enjoy these activities in a natural setting.
We, too, have concerns about the last paragraph of H.R. 4646, which seeks to provide blanket authority to local fire and rescue personnel to use motorized equipment and vehicles in the proposed wilderness areas. While we wholeheartedly support the active role of local fire and rescue personnel in wilderness areas and their use of motorized equipment, when appropriate, we believe this paragraph is unnecessary and should be removed. Kim Cash will address this further in her remarks.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Wilderness Act and its regulations, as you heard from the Forest Service, already provide for the use of motorized equipment and vehicles by local officers in the event of fire and emergency upon approval by the Federal land manager. In addition, the House Report on the Endangered American Wilderness Act of 1978, provides that in the event of fire, anything necessary for the protection of public health or safety is clearly permissible.
The current cooperative arrangements between local fire and rescue personnel and the Forest Service are working well and there is no need to change them through this legislation. The letter from Supervisor Damon, attached to my written testimony, and the statement of the local Fire Chief, Stanley Cash, for this hearing, support this conclusion.
The Forest Service routinely grants approval for the use of motorized equipment in wilderness in response to requests by local personnel. Training and coordination have established clear lines for local officials to make requests and gain approval.
In a recent case involving The Priest, approval to use motorized vehicles on a rescue mission was given within 5 minutes of the request.
In conclusion, we urge the committee to remove the unnecessary fire language in H.R. 4646 to make the bill consistent with existing cooperative agreements between the State of Virginia and the U.S. Forest Service consistent with the Wilderness Act and its regulations and consistent with Senate bill 2865, which does not include the language.
The Senate bill was heard last week and will be marked up tomorrow by the Senate Energy Committee. We urge the committee to support the bill as changed and move it to the floor of the House for final passage as soon as possible. I very much appreciate your holding this hearing under expedited fashion and look forward to the moving of the bill. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Carr appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Carr. Mr. Dawson, we are pleased to have you with us today, as well.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF MICHAEL S. DAWSON, REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONFERENCE
Mr. DAWSON. Thank you, sir. Mr. Chairman, and, members of the subcommittee, I am here to express the Appalachian Trail Conference's ardent support for the designation of The Priest and Three Ridges as the newest elements of our Nation's Wilderness Preservation System.
The ATC was extensively involved in the public forest planning process in the mid1980's when adoption of the George Washington Forest Land and Resource Management Plan gave these areas administrative designation as wilderness study areas and the agency's recommendation to Congress for this designation. We were active in working with the agency staff to formulate the specific boundaries found in the forest plan and adopted in this bill.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail runs through the heart of both of these rugged areas with a 3,000-foot elevation drop from the peak of The Priest to the Tye River and a matching 3,000-foot elevation gain to the crest of Three Ridges. Due to this dramatic topography, these areas are some of the most remote and rugged along the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia. We feel that designation as wilderness would provide the best long-term protection of the great public values of these areas.
The geology of these areas provides numerous major rock outcrops affording expansive and unrestricted views, not only within the areas, but across the Tye River Gorge from one area into the other.
Although ATC strives in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to provide as remote and natural an experience as possible along all of the Trail from Georgia to Maine, it is only within the extensive Federal land holdings within the national forests of the South and those in New England that we can truly provide a respite from the sights, sounds, and pressures of society to the millions who seek out the Trail annually.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The scarcity of opportunities for wilderness experiences along the whole trail leads us to work as hard as we can to protect those opportunities where they exist. These areas, The Priest and Three Ridges, are some of the best candidates for such protection along the east coast and we urge you to look favorably on their designation.
The association of the Appalachian Trail with wilderness values reaches back to the Trail's roots in the 1920's. Yet, we find it important to clarify this association for the agencies charged with carrying out both the Wilderness Act and the National Trail System Act.
We would, therefore, urge the committee to include within its report, language that has appeared with several wilderness-designating acts. This language, found in our written testimony, emphasizes the essential compatibility of the Trail and designated wilderness and confirms your intent that the traditional management and maintenance of the footpath and related structures should continue. I thank you very much for this opportunity to address you today on this important issue and would be glad to take any questions. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dawson appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you very much. Mr. Clark, we are pleased to have you with us.
STATEMENT OF EDWARD E. CLARK, JR., PRESIDENT, THE WILDLIFE CENTER OF VIRGINIA, WAYNESBORO, VA
Mr. CLARK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I bring you the greetings of the beautiful sixth district and I say it is with a great deal of pleasure that I expect to be there shortly after the conclusion of this hearing.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Ed, I will be along as quickly as I can with little delay.
Mr. CLARK. I will alert people you are coming. It is with a particular sense of deja vu that I address the committee this morning and I appreciate the opportunity. My career, following university, started in education. And it was in 1977 that a legendary wilderness figure in Virginia, a fellow by the name of Ernie Dickerman, asked me to do a job that he said would take about 3 hours. And it was to put together a slide program about wilderness areas proposed in the bill introduced by then Congressman Caldwell Butler, the chairman's mentor and former employer. Twenty-three years later, I am still working on that same 3-hour job. And here we are talking about yet another wilderness
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Clark, if you could suspend for just a moment, I see that the author of the legislation, Congressman Goode, has joined us. And if there is no objection, I would like to invite him to join us on the dais.
Mr. CLARK. Certainly.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Congressman Goode, you are welcome to join us up here. Go ahead, Mr. Clark.
Mr. CLARK. Thank you. Back in 1977, we were in the process of inventorying, or shortly thereafter, all of the potential lands for inclusion in the wilderness system under the RARE II study, and these areas were among those that were evaluated at the time and eventually popped up as wilderness study areas. Those particularly unique areas that we have since added to the Wilderness Preservation System are quite literally the crown jewels in our natural heritage.
The Wilderness Preservation System is just that. It is, in fact, a system, a system of coordinated management, a network of precious pristine lands that gives us a legacy that we can present to the future of what was really the attraction that brought people to this continent.
In Virginia, we have faced many threats to our wilderness area since they have been designated, the first, in the 1970's, in the national parks, then subsequently with the Wilderness Acts of 1984 and 1988. And I am sure that these areas will face similar threats.
It has been my job over those years, as the advocate for wilderness, often to sit in negotiations and discussions on the response to those threats, and I have participated in discussions on fire, flood, insect infestations, search and rescue, and even the catastrophic impacts of acid rain on fragile trout streams. And in each and every one of these cases, the system did, in fact, work. The Forest Service was responsive to local interests, local inputs, local needs. And, without exception, of which I am aware, and occasionally on an emergency basis, the response was appropriate, timely, measured to protect both the public human life, the integrity of the areas, the adjoining lands, and, importantly, the integrity of the system.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When we get involved in setting things aside for the future, whether it is our own money for our own retirement or whether it is land for the future use, we will be encountering many appropriate what-if scenarios. But if anything has shown itself to be true, the Wilderness Preservation System works. We have 36 years of experience nationwide. We have not quite that much experience in Virginia, but certainly close to 30, that tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt the system is responsive to the needs presented and we do not need to be tinkering with the system, even if there is a real legitimate and understandable fear that some eventual scenario might play out. You have heard from the Forest Service and my colleagues here on the panel that the areas are pristine. We certainly see no dispute on that whatsoever. At this point, there will be, I believe, unanimous support of the bill, certainly among this panel, if the language concerning motorized vehicular use, the specializedand what I think we would agree, at least among ourselvesas unnecessary language, is removed.
We would love to see this bill conform to its Senate companion. Certainly commend Congressman Goode for his initiative on this. It is astonishing to me that we can come forward from the old days with an idea of making an area wilderness, go through the public process and actually bring legislation before this body in a year's time, when the first wilderness bill in national forest took us 8 years to complete. But, in that 8 years, we hammered out just about every scenario that anyone could think of. And I believe we have a system that works. I want to thank Congressman Goode for introducing the bill. I certainly appreciate that. And, Mr. Chairman, thank you, and the committee for allowing us to present our views. I urge its passage without the motorized vehicle language.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Clark appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Clark. Ms. Cash.
STATEMENT OF KIM T. CASH, LIEUTENANT, MONTEBELLO VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT AND RESCUE SQUAD, MONTEBELLO, VA
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. CASH. Mr. Chairman, and, members of the subcommittee, my name is Kim Cash and I live with my husband and young son in Montebello. Our families have lived in Nelson County since the late 1700's and we love the area for its unique natural beauty.
Like many Nelson County residents, I have watched expanding development with concern and often wondered if there would be any unspoiled places remaining when my 5-year-old is grown. When a permanent wilderness designation was recommended for The Priest and Three Ridges, two majestic mountains in my backyard, I immediately recognized the benefits of this pure protection. Those of us who live near these mountains treasure their pristine natural beauty and seek to preserve a part of our natural heritage for our children. A Federal designation would allow us to continue all recreational activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting, but protect these mountains from invasive activities, such as logging, mining, and development. And preserving these mountains also provides protection for our native trout streams and the Tye River watershed.
As tourism is our largest industry in Nelson County, many of our residents rely on the county's natural beauty to attract visitors. We believe there will be an economic benefit to this designation. Many of us feel that eco-tourism, or low-impact tourism, is our most valuable asset. Tourists who come to hike and camp, but have little effect on our natural environment, provide sustainable income for our residents. We need the tourism dollars that outdoor enthusiasts spend.
As fire suppression has been a concern, it is important to look at the way fires in our area have been handled in the past. I have been a member and officer of the Montebello Volunteer Fire and Rescue for 10 years. During that time, I have worked numerous fires on, and adjacent to, Forest Service managed lands. Our county protocol requires that the local agency be notified immediately, followed by notification of the Forest Service. Upon receiving information on a fire, our local volunteers quickly respond to begin an initial attack. Due to the steep and rugged nature of this area, this initial attack involves hand-digging a fire line around the fire. If we need to use chain saws, our experience with the Forest Service shows very quick response for permission.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When the Forest Service arrives on the scene, the fire effort then falls under their jurisdiction. Our agency provides support for their efforts in the form of medical personnel or fire manpower. This protocol works for our local agencies. We do not have the manpower, the equipment, or air attack apparatus needed to fight these fires in the rugged terrain.
Having personally worked many of these fires, I have watched the Forest Service personnel manage their attack. They are able to rapidly bring in the manpower and equipment necessary to contain the fire. I have witnessed how quickly they can obtain permission for whatever is needed. Our fire and rescue members are comfortable with the protocols that have been in place since these areas were first designated as wilderness study areas.
As there is no private land within the proposed designation, any fire on private property would be on adjoining lands. A fire on or threatening private land falls under the local fire agency's jurisdiction. We will fight that fire with every piece of equipment available to us. We do not need the permission of the Forest Service to use chain saws or other equipment on private land.
As an emergency medical technician with our agency, I have also worked search and rescues with the study area. The working relationship with our District Ranger has been excellent. In a recent search for a distressed hiker on The Priest in August, we telephoned the Forest Service office and received permission within 5 minutes from our District Ranger to use whatever was necessary in that search.
In summary, the protocols in place since The Priest and Three Ridges became wilderness study areas, work for our local fire and rescue personnel, making the special fire language unnecessary. It has been my experience that the Forest Service uses every available resource to attack fires in these areas. In addition, the working relationship between the Forest Service and the local agency has always been mutually respectful.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a member of our local fire and rescue, and as a resident living close to these two beautiful mountains, I respectfully ask that you move this bill forward without the special fire language. When the written Forest Service policy is judged against their past fire suppression actions in our area, I believe that the standing protocols have been historically verified. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Cash appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Ms. Cash. And let me apologize. I attempted to swipe you from Congressman Goode. I thought you lived in Amherst County. And the borders there around Montebello are very close, but we will seed you back to Mr. Goode and are delighted to have your testimony. And, at this point, I would like to ask Congressman Goode if he has a statement he would like to make.
Mr. GOODE. I would like to thank you and Mrs. Clayton, and the other members of the subcommittee for being here and listening to what persons that are interested having The Priest and Three Ridges designated as wilderness areas. I have to say and I want to thank the witnesses for coming up, those especially that came from Nelson County, all the way up this morning, for being here.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. I wonder if the gentleman from Illinois and the gentleman from Indiana have a statement they would like to make. All right. We do thank you for your participation. At this time, we will begin with questions. And let me begin by saying that, as some of you know, I have, for a long time, expressed reservations about wilderness areas, particularly in the East. One of the concerns I have is that these areas are often very, very small. In fact, these two areas are both less than 10 square miles each.
Some of the impact that they have on surrounding areas and the impact that the surrounding areas have on them, raise some concerns, in my mind, about issues like fighting fire and pest infestation, issues like management of the Appalachian Trail, accessibility to some of these areas, and so on. Nonetheless, I am very much open-minded about this legislation and I have a great deal of respect for Congressman Goode.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I agree very much with Mr. Dawson that these are beautiful areas. Earlier this year, before my mishap, in which I broke my ankle, I had the opportunity to go up and take a look at portions of these areas, hiking inon the Appalachian Trail. And they are, indeed, very beautiful and very rugged areas. I can attest to that personally.
I will tell you that when I was first elected to Congress in 1992, I made the statements I just made to you and, no sooner had I been elected, and before I was even sworn in, that the adjoining county, Amherst County, unanimously, through its Board of Supervisors, passed a resolution calling for the creation of wilderness area in Amherst County. And I had to struggle with that.
As you know, the outcome of that ultimately was the passage of legislation and the Congress creating the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, which allowed for the creation of a protected area, a permanently protected area, but still allowed the Forest Service to manage the area in some respects that we were concerned the wilderness areas would not allow. In particular, that area includes a large bald on the top of Coal Mountain, which would have to be mowed in order to maintain it. And it is a spectacular site. I think most people would agree that it should be maintained. And it also includes a long stretch of the Appalachian Trail as well. So first, let me ask a few questions of the panel. Mr. Carr, maybe you are the best person to answer this. Has the Nelson County Board of Supervisors taken a position on this issue?
Mr. CARR. There has been a lot of discussion, several public meetings in Nelson County, but the Nelson County Board of Supervisors has not taken a position after hearing much input from local citizens and defer to Congressman Goode to proceed with introducing a bill.
Mr. GOODLATTE. When you say they defer to Congressman Goode, do they do so in such a way that they said formally we defer to him, or do they simply, by their failure to act, in effect, defer to him?
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CARR. Ms. Cash, maybe will help me on this. I think she was at the meeting. But I think they formally decided to take no position on the bill.
Ms. CASH. Sir, they did have a copy of the bill at their meeting and agreed not to take any formal position.
Mr. GOODLATTE. For or against it?
Ms. CASH. For or against it.
Mr. GOODLATTE. OK. Thank you. Mr. Dawson, you had expressed some confidence thatand I am not sure the exact language you used, but that the traditional means by which the Appalachian Trail maintains the Trail, the clubs maintain it, could be achieved with this legislation. Could you give me some more detail? It is my understanding that most of the local clubs like to use motorized equipment, chain saws, and this sort of thing, to clear the Trail and maintain it. Is that possible in this wilderness area? And if it is not, what alternatives are suitable? I have actually heard from some trail club members who have expressed opposition to the wilderness concept for that reason, and maybe you can allay their concerns.
Mr. DAWSON. Well, in Virginia alone, we presently have about 35 miles of the Trail in designated wilderness, and more mileage than that in wilderness study areas, which we manage as wilderness, in cooperation with the Forest Service. Some of those areas have been designated since 1973. Most notably, James River Face wilderness. The Trail has, therefore, been through James River Face for 27 years now and still remains open and passable and quite popular with hikers and so forth. It does mean additional burden on our clubs.
And what it means is that unless there is a major catastrophic eventthe latest example was Hurricane Hugoin which the Forest Service gave us specific permission to open the Trail through the massive blow downbecause of human safety and the protection of the resources in the wilderness area, that those tasks have to be completed with hand tools. As late as this March, I taught cross-cut saw methods in a workshop in Three Ridges, in which we removed several down oak trees that were dead from gypsy moth in excess of 35 inches.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And it is a challenge. It takes more time. It will take more resources for the club. But when we try to balance that with the protection that is provided, long-term, for not only the environs directly around the Trail, but the vistas from the Trail, the large areas of undisturbed forest land, we think that is a trade off that the Trail community is clearly willing to make.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Do you have any idea how many miles of the Trail run through these two areas?
Mr. DAWSON. Off the top of my head, I would say that there is about 15.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Fifteen miles.
Mr. DAWSON. Yes.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. My time has expired. I do have a number of other questions, but let me allow the other members of the panel to have their opportunities. First, Mrs. Clayton.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I think, without exception, everyone supported the bill, am I correct? At least the panelists, although there might be a counter that has taken no position that is effected in that area. Also, without exception, I think everyone recognized that the existing protocol for having fire protection in an emergency situation was sufficient and has some concerns about the motorized firefighters being given over and above, in addition. Is that correct?
There is general support that this would be a good thing by the citizens in the area as well as you. So I gather they see this as enhancing not only the esthetic value and seeing the value of putting this pristine property for not only their enjoyment, but for the enjoyment of American people and their children and their grandchildren, as you said, Ms. Cash, in the future. Is there also an economic value for surrounding counties as well? Is there an associated economic enhancement when this investmentwould anyone like to speak to that?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLARK. Mrs. Clayton, part of the reason I was asked to join the panel is, I guess, because I am considered an old-timer in wilderness discussions in Virginia, having been involved in it for 25 years or so. And, yes, we have, in fact, seen, in areas where wilderness has been designated, included my home county of Augusta County, which is solidly in the sixth district, in the chairman's district. We have seen areas that have now been designated for about 16 years become a real magnet for support activities. Businesses have grown up in the communities for outdoor equipment, outfitters.
The use of these areas has spawned some adjacent recreational facilities in the Ramsey's Draft area, which is also in our county, where the Forest Service has recognized that so many people were coming in; they improved parking, trail access, things of this nature. And bed and breakfasts have been popping up all over. And the way that these counties are situated, with the Blue Ridge Parkway running down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with wilderness areas both east and west, it becomes literally a recreational corridor. And all of the counties in the area have the potential to experience a very tangible, a very real, and, in fact, a very measurable economic benefit from these areas being designated, identified in the system-wide maps, and drawing visitors from throughout the eastern United States, and, in fact, from other countries as well.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you. I think I was going to ask the Forest Service to explain how the existing protocol allowed for the protection of fires and utilization of the current fire department in response to the danger of a fire. But I think Ms. Cash explained how that works. Are there other things you would like to add to what she said as to the relationship of
Mr. FURNISH. Well, I thought Ms. Cash did a very effective job, and I hesitate to even try to add to that, because I think it gave example to what I think is our good stewardship of that responsibility. I think what I would add, though, in the spectrum of law, regulation, and policy, we think that this issue of permissive use of motorized equipment and that kind of thing falls in the policy arena. And traditionally throughout, bills accompanying wilderness designation through the United States, to my knowledge, this issue has never been addressed in law.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we feel that it works very effectively in the policy arena because we have so many differences. You know, wilderness areas in the Sierras and California are fundamentally different than they are in the Appalachians, just as the boundary waters in northern Minnesota is very different from areas in Florida. And we think that the policy arena is the best place to capture some of these unique differences and make decisions on a case-by-case basis on the nature of the land in question and the nature of the requested use in question.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you. That is all the questions I have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mrs. Clayton. The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Phelps.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I guess to any of the panel members that might want to respond to thisthe Blue Ridge Parkway, was constructed how many years ago?
Mr. DAWSON. Late 1940's.
Mr. PHELPS. Back in the late 1940's. Almost 60 years ago. Do you think it would be successful in getting done today?
Mr. DAWSON. Since we are coming to the end of an acquisition program for the Appalachian Trail that is spanned the last 20 years, I would say that the ability to put together the land resources for such a linear park is becoming increasingly difficult.
Mr. PHELPS. In what aspect? From the standpoint of
Mr. DAWSON. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was laid out through that area, and it was much more sparsely populatedthere wasn't nearly as much land-owner pressure. The land wasn't subdivided in tracts that were as small. And it was clearly much easier to purchase a right-of-way for the parkway than comparatively it has been for us to purchase right-of-way for the Appalachian Trail between 1980 and today. Land values are higher. People's interestland owner's interest in exclusive use of property is higher. And so it has been a more and more difficult thing as development moves up into the mountains.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PHELPS. So the construction of this parkway enhanced economic development in some ways? Tourism and all that.
Mr. DAWSON. Very much so. You see it typically in ads for property, both adjacent to the National Forest and adjacent to the parkwayads that tout that property is adjacent to them, and prices are very high.
Mr. PHELPS. Would much of that parkway property today be defined in the wilderness areas if it were looking at it today?
Mr. CLARK. Mr. Phelps, I believe that when that land was designated, by and large, most of it was farmland.
Mr. PHELPS. Oh, really.
Mr. CLARK. It was small tract, sort of subsistence farming.
The same was true with Shenandoah National Park. And, at the time, as Mike has indicated, that the land had very little market value and many of these owners were thrilled to be able to sell it to the Federal Government and though they had made the best of the deal.
I think that most of us would agree that the recreational opportunities often don't have the same political muscle that a much more short-term economic pay back would be. At least in my opinion, that would compel us to protect the areas that we have already bought and that are pristine, and protect them because the opportunity to replace them is virtually nonexistent. And I think that is really why we would feel very strongly that these areas need to be protected now.
Mr. PHELPS. Good point. The reason I even brought this question up for one reasonin southern Illinois, deep southern Illinois, the southernmostKane County is my old State rep district. My predecessor and myself, when we were in the State legislature, proposed the river-to-river road in deep southern Illinois, from Mississippi to Ohio, which would be similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway. And it met great opposition from the environmental community mainly and we were very careful in trying to route around environmental sensitive areas or wilderness areas that would have come close to the corridor.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we often pointed to the Blue Ridge Parkway as even complementing the wilderness areas, because if you get adjacent or even near wilderness area to hike, how are you going to even get in the area period unless you are one of those few thatreally rare. I mean, so that always bewildered me.
One last question or just inquiry, maybe to Ms. Cash. Specifically addressing within the law the advantages that you see need to be removed by removing this language, do you feel like that without some specific language one way or the other leaving it open for, like you say, working out things, as you go along with responding to case-by-case scenario of what could happenmy experience is it always depends on who is working with who. If you have reasonable people working with reasonable people, you can probably get through most of anything. But many times we find that someone either goes by the book so rigidly, he is not going to vary from it, or feels like they are threatened by whatever the situation might be. Do you think that we would not need some kind of defined specific language to work through that or can we just leave it for good harmonious relations to depend on?
Ms. CASH. Well, I believe there are two phases in the answer to that question. The first is that the bill itself, the Wilderness Act itself, does address the very concerns we are talking about. It does provide for methods for fighting fire and searches and rescues and does so sufficiently. It has been proven in other areas, and, frankly, it has been in effect in our area since 1993 and works successfully for us. The second part of that answer, though, is that, I believe historically the Forest Service has proven that when life or property is in jeopardy, they are willing to go above and beyond what their language states in order to protect both of those. I would find it difficult to believe that we would be the only volunteer organization that has had that experience. With those I have talked to across the State, it has been the same experience there.
Mr. PHELPS. And what else haven't
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLARK. Mr. Phelps, I think your points are well taken that the by-the-book scenario where somebody is going to be rigid and legalistic about this, could be construed as a situation to which we might need to respond. But one of my concerns in addressing that and responding to that scenario with permissive language is, in effect, you are giving permission for an individual, conceivably, to make a decision that is now presently couched in the rational, reasonable context of the policy forum.
We have a great deal of history. We have got the Forest Service management handbooks. There is a great deal of advanced discussion in the plans that are developed, management plans, for each of the wilderness areas, in advance of an emergency, to pre-empt exactly the scenario about which you speak. Each of the wilderness areas has a management plan developed for it, and in that plan, there is an anticipated set of scenarios that have an anticipated and projected set of responses.
I spent 7 years, myself, on a volunteer fire department adjacent to Shenandoah National Park, and can tell you that depending on who happened to be behind the wheel of the truck on that given day, decisions were often vastly different. And with permissive language, it would reduce the management to that level. I don't think we need that.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Phelps. Mr. Goode, do you have questions of the panel?
Mr. GOODE. No.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. I have some additional questions. First of all, going back to the discussion regarding special management areas and scenic areas and wilderness areas, I take it the concern of the members of the panel is that as a special management area, it is subject to change and doesn't have the permanent nature that wilderness areas provide. With regard to scenic areas, I would like to have your response to why that would not be a suitable alternative. Some of the things that concern me have been addressed.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the Mount Pleasant National Scenic area there are, and were, at the time of its creation, existing roads, which still exist, which provide access very pertinent to Mr. Phelps' comments. In fact, when I was looking at that area, at that time, I met an older gentleman and his son who were fishing and I asked him what he thought about the creation of wilderness area, and he said, well, it is a beautiful area and I want to protect it, but I don't want wilderness. And I said, why not? And he said, well, in order to get access to some of these great trout streams, I am quite old and I need to be able to drive closer to them. Then he pointed to his son, who looked to be about 30 years of age and he said, he certainly couldn't get in there. And I looked at him. He looked like a strapping young fellow and I said, why is that? And he said, well, he was involved in an industrial accident and he has a prosthetic leg and he couldn't possibly hike in. So that had a major influence on my desire to find an alternative way to preserve those two roads.
It is my understanding there are no existing roads in these areas. Is that correct?
Mr. CARR. That is correct, Chairman Goodlatte. There are no roads inside the boundaries of the wilderness study areas.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And further addressing Mr. Phelp's concerns, I understand that there is a road that parallels one of these areas that gives people close access to it from that. Is that a logging road or what kind of road is that?
Mr. CARR. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs around along, but separated from the northwest boundary of the Three Ridges area and there is an access road that you can walk on and provides access for the Appalachian Trail Club for maintenance of the Trail Club and the Trail shelter, which brings you fairly close to the wilderness.
Mr. GOODLATTE. OK. When I consulted with my predecessor, Congressman Jim Oland, who was instrumental in creating the St. Mary's Wilderness Area and some other wilderness areas in my congressional district, with regard to Mount Pleasant, I was very surprised. I thought he would advocate for it. I was very surprised to receive his advice to go slow when it came to the creation of wilderness areas because he had encountered some difficulties. And he cited the St. Mary's, in particular, both from the standpoint of the popularity, which you cited, Mr. Clark, which, indeed, it is very popular, and also which meant that it was receiving excess use that some facilities might have helped to eliminateor alleviate. And also problems with acid rain and being able to bring in whatever
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER. Limestone.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Limestoneto treat the St. Mary's River in that regard. Would you comment on those concerns?
Mr. CLARK. Sure. I appreciate both of those concerns and Mr. Oland's admonition to consider these things fully. In the first case, the issue of use in St. Mary's was an issue of too much access because there was a parking area right at the mouth of the stream where it left the wilderness area, and it was too easy for people who are not at all interested in a wilderness experience to get into the wilderness. I personally was in there one day and saw a group of James Madison University students, with a pole strung between them. And as the safari hunters have their lion up on the pole from our childhood cartoons, they had a huge cooler up on a pole, and I can tell you it was a lot lighter coming out than when they lugged it in there. I actually saw somebody going up the Trail in Ramsey's Draft one day with a shopping cart. And so I think that access is something that cuts both ways. And by simply moving the parking area, the Forest Service achieved the management objective of providing adequate access without too much access and that St. Mary's now has really come into a balance in terms of its user load.
In terms of the acid rain issue, the problem is a regional problem. Wilderness designation didn't give us acid rain. And, in fact, in that area, the limestone was applied to the stream, as it has been to a number of streams in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Allegheny Region, it was simply placed there with a helicopter. And that allowed what made the stream special in the first place, which is the environs and the repair-in area to remain intact, while we try desperately to mitigate the regional and, in fact, national problem. So, again, actually the scenario you gave is proof that we can work around these restraints in a wilderness area, achieve the public good without any unreasonable limitation on what needs to be done to protect both the area and the public's interest.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. And I take it the creation of two new wilderness areas in an adjoining county would, perhaps, reduce some of the demandmake more opportunities available, although, drawing them out of my district and into Congressman Goode's district. Let me, in that regard
Mr. CLARK. Mr. Chairman, we have a list for the sixth district if you would like us to present that after the meeting.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, Mr. Clark, you have anticipated my next question because in proceeding with this and having the concerns that I have regarding this, it is certainly a very serious concern that once we proceed with this, that we will then be presented with that very list that you describe in my congressional district, which I am concerned about dealing with all the myriad issues and all of the local government concerns that I will find when those lists are presented. So tell me what you have in mind by that and what I am going to be confronted with.
Mr. CLARK. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am sure you will be confronted with nothing more than eager constituents to participate. Now, in all truth, I am unaware that there is a shopping list and that this is the camel's nose under the tent. The real scenario that we confront is, we are running out of areas that merit designation as wilderness areas. The roadless area review and evaluation, second version, that was done in the late 1970'sit was completed and reported on in the early 1980's. The admonition now that the Forest Service is under to take one more look and see if any of the roadless areas qualify for either special management under the administrative authority of the Forest Service or under some type of legislative designation. Unless there are a whole lot of places in Virginia that we haven't found yet, the inventory of areas that would merit this type of protection is dwindling rapidly, which makes the protection of the areas that we have identified, that we have studied, all the more urgent to have two areas so close together. And particularly, on the east slope of the Blue Ridge in Nelson County, makes it really quite important that we protect them.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the last 400 years since we have been chopping and plowing our way across Virginia from the first settlement of Jamestown, there is really just not much left that would fall into this category. So I personally have no hidden agenda here, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Mr. Carr, would you care to respond to the same question?
Mr. CARR. There certainly are additional areas that could qualify as wilderness. There are none that are recommended by the Forest Service through the forest planning process in Virginia, other than some minor additions thatone of which would be St. Mary's in your district. But that is not before us today. So that is reallythe issue is have areas gone through the review process by the Forest Service, and the answer is these are the only two stand alone areas that have been recommended in the George Washington National Forest.
Mr. GOODLATTE. By the Forest Service. Does your organization have other areas, particularly west of the Blue Ridge, that you recommend for inclusion in new wilderness areas?
Mr. CARR. We have not looked at areas for wilderness designation. I think over time, as Mr. Clark mentioned, you will probably have constituents who will urge further protection of areas as wilderness, but I think this will happen over time. And we are not creating any new wilderness in the East right now. There are just very few areas left and this will something that has to be worked out through constituents in your district over time.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Can you name any areas that you are aware of that there is such public interest in creating these wilderness areas?
Mr. CARR. I am not aware of any particular proposals in the environmental community. I know there is interest though in seeing these areas protected, whether that be through wilderness, whether it be through scenic designation, conservation area designation, or administrative protection by the Forest Service.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Mr. Furnish, are you aware of any suchand I take it, the Forest Service does list The Priest and Three Ridges as areas that the Service finds desirable to be designated as wilderness areas. Is that correct?
Mr. FURNISH. Correct. These came through our forest planning process as areas that we fully supported and recommend to Congress for designation as wilderness.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And are there other areas?
Mr. FURNISH. The St. Mary's additionI think it was referenced previouslywas another small one. But it was recommended. Yes. And it was recommended for addition.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And are you aware of any others?
Mr. FURNISH. No. I am not.
Mr. GOODLATTE. OK. Mr. Clark mentioned the fact that a great deal of the Shenandoah Valley and the Allegheny Highlands and the Blue Ridge were cut over very dramatically, very, in my opinion, devastatingly, at the turn of the last century when that part of Virginia was the iron-mining capital of the world and these trees were cut to create charcoal for the smelting furnaces that existed all over the area, and the area was truly devastated. As a result of that, the forests have grown back, when coupled with the fact that we fight forest fires, as it is generally necessary to do in the populated areas theregrown back in undesirable ways in some instances. And I wonder if any of you can comment on the condition of these two areas, The Priest and the Three Ridges in that respect. Is it going to be a problem with fuel-load density building up in the future and not being able to address that? Is this area covered by small spindly trees that, because fires didn't root out the weaker ones and allow the larger ones to grow larger, to proliferate, and, therefore, the health of these areas will have to be managed at some point in time?
Mr. DAWSON. Actually, because of the geophysical shape of the areas, which I know you have visited, so you are familiar with, the land is so rugged and so steep, has so many physical barriers spaced through itbig rock out crops and deep gorgesthat there are lots of areas within The Priest and Three Ridges that are old growth. They are not the old growth that much of the public envisions in huge towering trees, but rather what we call in Virginia orchard oaks, which are short-stunted trees in the ridge tops, which have formed basically natural bonsai, and have not been cut over at all.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There doesn't seem to be any reasonable way that the Forest Service could pursue a fuel-load management program. The land is so steep and the geography is such that prescribed burns would be very, very difficult for them to control. And certainly, the cost and the environmental effects of trying to insert roads to remove trees, in order to manage the fuel load and the forest in that way, would be just incomprehensible in today's world, I think.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And I take it that that type of terrain is less desirable for growth and, therefore, the fuel-load buildup would be less in some of those areas then.
Mr. DAWSON. Yes.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me ask youone of the most spectacular waterfalls in Virginia, Crabtree Falls, is adjoining The Priest. I take it that area has been carved out so it can continue to be maintained. Is that correct?
Mr. DAWSON. Yes, sir. The actual boundary of the wilderness area is on the slope above the creek and excludes the national recreation trail and all the falls.
Mr. GOODLATTE. OK. Thank you. We have been joined by the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Berry. Do you have any questions of the panel?
Mr. BERRY. No.
Mr. GOODLATTE. We thank you very much for your participation.
Mr. CLARK. Mr. Chairman if I may refer back to one of your previous questions about other areas that we are waiting in the wings to introduce, there are two areasand maybe this is what you were looking forthat we dowe are looking at to evaluate, and certainly working with the Forest Service to be sure management doesn't pre-empt future consideration. And those areas would be Laurel Fork over in Highland County, right adjacent to West Virginia, and Little River, also in your district.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Which county is Little River in?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLARK. Little River is in Rockingham and Augusta County. It overlaps there. The Laurel Fork area is an area that was not originally included in the wilderness evaluations way back when forprimarily in response to local political pressure at the time.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Didn't it involve a gas transmission line or something?
Mr. CLARK. It had outstanding gas rights. Many of those outstanding issues, as you are aware, have been resolved now and the Forest Service has that area under special management, while future options are evaluated. Right now, it would be premature for me to sit here and speculate about what the outcome of that will be. But there is certainly an ongoing discussion.
The Forest Service has recognized this area as having some incredible natural features. And with the resolution of those utility rights-of-way and natural resource development rights, it opens up some options that did not presentlyor did not previously exist. But those two areas, I would not want to overlook mentioning. So, excuse me.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Mr. Goode, have any of my questions opened any doors that you want to go through or do you have any questions of the panel?
Mr. GOODE. No, thank you.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Unless any of you have any additional comments, brief comments you would like to make, I have pretty much asked the questions I need to ask.
Mr. GOODE. I want to thank you. And Congressman Goodlatte and his staff worked very hard in getting the hearing held this week instead of next week.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Yes. We are pleased to accommodate you in that regard. We will figure out where we are going to go from here. I should point out, I think you may be aware, that the Interior Committee, the Resources Committee, particularly the subcommittee chaired by Mrs. Chenoweth, has primary jurisdiction over the legislation, so we will consult with that committee. And this committee has secondary jurisdiction and we are very interested in resolving this matter. And we will act with haste since there is not much time left in this Congress.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do thank all of you for your participation and your interest. This is, indeed, a beautiful area. I happen to think that the Sixth and the Fifth Congressional Districts of Virginia contain some of the most beautiful areas in the entire country and are very deserving of protection. And it is a matter of figuring out what the best way to do that is.
And I thank you all for your contributions today. The Chair would ask unanimous consent to allow the record of today's hearing to remain open for 10 days to receive additional material and supplementary written responses from witnesses to any question posed by a member of the panel. Without objection, it is so ordered, and this hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry is adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 11:15 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Testimony of David W. Carr, Jr.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is David Carr. I am an attorney from the Charlottesville, VA office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a non-profit environmental advocacy group that works to protect the environment and public health in a six-State region that includes the Southern Appalachian national forests. We appreciate this opportunity to present oral and written testimony in support of the Virginia Wilderness Act of 2000 to designate the Priest and Three Ridges as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 launched a bold initiative to protect and preserve the remaining wild and relatively undisturbed places in our country. Specifically, the act seeks to assure that increasing population ''accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization'' does not overrun all places and corners of our landscape. But finding, and protecting, areas that are ''untrammeled by man'' has become a challenge, particularly in the East where public lands are more scarce and land development is booming.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC More than half of existing congressionally-designated wilderness is found in Alaska and more than one-third is in the western-most states. Less than 5 percent of all existing wilderness acreage occurs in the Eastand almost half of that is either in the Everglades or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. As a result, the increasing populations of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions are sorely deprived of backcountry areas. Quite simply, our region has more people, more development pressure, and more recreation demand, but far less wilderness to go around than any other part of the country.
In the first ten years following passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, only four of 95 new wilderness areas were designated in the East. The bill before you today is the first wilderness bill in Virginia since 1988. On average, about 18 percent of national forest acreage is designated wilderness, whereas only 3 percent of the George Washington National Forest here in Virginia is protected as wilderness. Yet, the George Washington is the closest national forest to Richmond, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Thus, the demand for backcountry recreation on this forest is high and will continue to increase. (A Forest Service report projects that by 2005 backcountry recreation demand in this region will increase 150 percent from 1990 levels. ''Assessing Economic Tradeoffs in Forest Management,'' USDA Forest Service, August 1997.) In short, Virginia needs more protected wilderness to accommodate current and future backcountry recreation use.
THE PRIEST AND THREE RIDGES
We in Virginia are very fortunate to have two excellent national forest candidates for wilderness designation in Nelson County just south of the Wintergreen resort, less than an hour from both Charlottesville and Lynchburg. The Priest and Three Ridges are prominent features of the Blue Ridge landscape in western Nelson County. The Appalachian Trail runs through these two areas and the Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the western boundary of the Three Ridges area. Together, the areas include approximately 11,000 acres (see the attached pictures, map, and detailed descriptions of The Priest and Three Ridges).
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The U.S. Forest Service recommended these two areas for wilderness study in the 1993 revision of the management plan for the George Washington National Forest. Since that time, the areas have been managed as if they were already federally-designated wilderness. The areas are too rugged and inaccessible for timber production. No logging activity has occurred in these two areas over the past twenty years.
Over 500 citizens signed a petition presented to Congressman Goode supporting the wilderness designations. Many of those supporters are from Nelson County. In addition, a wide array of conservation groups from central Virginia and around the state support the wilderness designations, including the Appalachian Trail Conference, Trout Unlimited, Virginia Wilderness Committee, The Nature Conservancy (Virginia Chapter), Wintergreen Nature Foundation, Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, Montebello Clean Mountain Coalition, Sierra Club (Virginia Chapter), The Wilderness Society, Shenandoah Ecosystems Defense Group, and the Virginia Native Plant Society.
On June 13, 2000, Congressman Virgil Goode introduced H.R. 4646 to designate The Priest and Three Ridges as wilderness. On July 13, Senators Warner and Robb introduced S. 2865 for the same purpose.
Designating these two areas as protected wilderness will provide substantial economic benefits to Nelson County and its growing tourism industry. These areas provide the scenic backdrop for much of the county. They are also the source of clean water for citizens and a thriving trout fishery . A healthy population of black bear and numerous other wildlife species reside in these mountain forests. Passage of the bill is critical for providing long term protection for these assets that make Nelson County a special place to visit and live.
As wilderness, these areas will also help accommodate growing recreation demand in Virginia and the surrounding region. They will remain open to hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and other traditional recreation uses, thus providing quality opportunities for anglers, hunters, and hikers. Their protection will also ensure that future generations will enjoy the same benefits currently enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMOTORIZED VEHICLE AND EQUIPMENT USE BY LOCAL FIRE AND RESCUE UNITS
The last section of H.R. 4646, subsection 1(b), seeks to provide blanket authority to local fire and rescue personnel to use motorized equipment and vehicles in the proposed wilderness areas. While we wholeheartedly support both the active role of local fire and rescue personnel in national forests and wilderness areas, and their use of motorized equipment and vehicles whenever necessary, we believe this paragraph of the bill is unnecessary. For the following reasons, we urge the Committee to remove this provision from the bill.
Fortunately, the Wilderness Act of 1964 and its regulations provide for the use of motorized equipment and vehicles by local and state officers in the event of fire and emergency upon approval by the Federal land manager, the U.S. Forest Service. The current cooperative arrangements between local and state fire and rescue personnel and the U.S. Forest Service for addressing fire and rescue issues in the national forests in Virginia are working well and there is no need to change those arrangements through this legislation.
Subsection 1(b) of H.R. 4646 is unnecessary because existing law, regulations, and policy already provide for the use of motorized equipment or vehicles in the event of fire or emergency in wilderness areas. Section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act of 1964 provides that ''such measures can be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such conditions as the Secretary deems desirable.'' Section 4(c) of the act further provides that motorized equipment and mechanical transport, while prohibited for general purposes, can be used in the event of emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area.
In addition, House Report 95540 (p. 6) on the Endangered American Wilderness Act of 1978 (PL 95237, 1978) provides that in the event of fire, insects, or disease ''anything necessary for the protection of public health or safety is clearly permissible'' (emphasis added). The relevant provision further states:
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fires, Insects and Disease. Section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act permits any measures necessary to control fire, insect outbreaks, and disease in wilderness areas. This includes the use of mechanized equipment, the building of fire roads, fire towers, fire breaks or fire pre-suppression facilities where necessary and other techniques for fire control.
These provisions of the Wilderness Act are implemented through Forest Service regulations that provide for the agency to grant approval to state or local fire and rescue personnel for the use of motorized equipment or vehicles. Forest Service Manual, section 2326.04(c). Forest Supervisors approve the use of motorized equipment or vehicles in the event of emergencies involving fire suppression, health and safety, law enforcement, removal of deceased persons, and aircraft accident investigation.
The U.S. Forest Service routinely grants approval for the use of motorized equipment or vehicles in wilderness or wilderness study areas in response to requests by state or local personnel. Training and coordination among local, State, and Forest Service fire and rescue personnel have established clear lines for local officials to make requests and gain approval for the use of motorized equipment or vehicles. Approval can be granted by the Forest Service in well under an hour. See May 8, 2000 letter from Forest Supervisor William Damon to the Honorable Virgil H. Goode, Jr., attached.
In a recent case involving The Priest Wilderness Study Area, which is already managed pursuant to wilderness guidelines, local fire and rescue personnel received approval to use motorized vehicles on a rescue mission within five minutes of the request. See the attached summary of ''Search for Distressed Hiker'' by Lieutenant Kim T. Cash, Montebello Fire and Rescue.
On November 30, 1999, I attended a meeting with local fire officials from Nelson County, a representative of the Virginia Department of Forestry, and a representative of the U.S. Forest Service. These officials were in agreement that the current system was working well and that approval for the use of motorized vehicles or equipment has been and can continue to be granted in a timely manner by the U.S. Forest Service. Fire Chief Stanley Cash of the Montebello Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, located near both The Priest and Three Ridges areas, has stated in his written testimony for this hearing that the extra language in the bill is unnecessary for fire and rescue operations in the area.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, the U.S. Forest Service has taken the position that additional legislative language addressing the use of motorized equipment or vehicles is unnecessary. William Damon, Forest Supervisor of the George Washington National Forest, stated in his May 8, 2000 letter to Congressman Goode:
Because of the existing protocols and avenues as well as the established successful history in working with local Volunteer Fire Departments and VDOF, we would not recommend specific legislative language addressing the role of volunteer fire departments that may be engaged in fire suppression activities using mechanized equipment in these designated wilderness study areas. We don't see a need for additional legislative language addressing this issue. However, we are committed to maintaining a strong working relationship with local Volunteer Fire Departments and VDOF to ensure that protection of life, adjacent private property and our natural resources remain the top priority.
Fortunately, the Forest Service, local firefighters, and the Virginia Department of Forestry have a strong history of working together on fire suppression. They have documented their excellent working relationship in a ''Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement'' covering firefighting on national forests and private lands in Nelson County and other counties where national forest land is located. This agreement provides that local firefighters can initiate fire suppression on Forest Service land since they may often be the closest available responders. The 5-Year Operation Plan, a Supplement to the 1998 Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement, page 2, provides as follows:
It is recognized that the Virginia Department of Forestry has suppression authority of wildfires on state and private lands within the Commonwealth of Virginia, including national forest system lands. It is also recognized that local fire departments have authority to respond to fire and other emergency incidents. As such each may initiate initial attack with the Forest Service under Unified Incident Command.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The closest available resources will initiate suppression on any wildfire on reciprocally protected land regardless of land ownership. A description of reciprocal areas are included on the portion of this agreement found in Appendix A. [Appendix A provides that all lands west of U.S. 29 in Nelson County, including USFS lands, are reciprocal protection areas.]
The Operation Plan also provides for an air tanker from the nearby Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (Weyers Cave) and the use of helicopter dispatch. 1998 Operation Plan at page 5. Air tankers and helicopters can, of course, be used in wilderness areas for fire suppression.
Finally, while Forest Service regulations provide for the use of bulldozers in firefighting efforts in wilderness areas, it is very unlikely that this would be necessary in The Priest and Three Ridges areas. As Forest Supervisor Bill Damon stated in his letter, ''these recommended wilderness areas have steep and rugged terrain, most of which would be unsuited for dozer work. Consequently, we would anticipate few requests and in fact have never had such a request.'' May 8, 2000 letter to Congressman Goode.
In conclusion, we urge the Committee to remove the unnecessary fire language in H.R. 4646 to make the bill consistent with existing agency guidelines, provisions in the Wilderness Act of 1964, and S. 2865. We urge the Committee to support the bill as changed and move it to the floor of the House for final passage as soon as possible.
Testimony of Edward E. Clark, Jr.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Edward E. Clark, Jr. I am the president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, located in Waynesboro, VA, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The Wildlife Center is one of the world's leading teaching hospitals for wildlife medicine and is a leading environmental organization in the mid-Atlantic region. People around the world know our work through our weekly television series, ''Wildlife Emergency'' that airs on the Animal Planet network.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am here today to support H.R. 4646, the Virginia Wilderness Act of 2000. As you know, this legislation would designate two areas of the Washington-Jefferson National Forest as wilderness areas.
I must tell you that there is a great feeling of deja vu associated with my appearance this morning. It was more than 20 years ago that I first sat at a witness table and addressed a congressional subcommittee. The topic at that time was wilderness. In fact, it was the effort to identify roadless area candidates for the Wilderness Preservation System during the late 1970's that led me to my life's work in conservation. I can think of few things more worthy of my energy and attention than the protection of the natural heritage of this magnificent country, including both our wild creatures and our wild places.
H.R. 4646 takes another important step toward the creation of a truly natural legacy that this generation will leave behind for the future. Our Nation's Capital is full of the monuments to our heroes and leaders. The city itself is the embodiment of our institutions of [the Republic]. However, it serves us well to remember that it was not the works of man that first drew our forefathers to these shores. Nor was it grand buildings and wide avenues upon which this nation was built. It was the abundance of natural resources found on this once wild continent.
Today, not much of that wildness is left, especially here in the East. The first Europeans got off the boat nearly 400 years ago. In the succeeding years we have chopped, plowed, dug, mined and paved our way across this great land. Little remains of what this place looked like four centuries ago. What does remain is every bit as precious and significant to who we are as a people, and what we are as a country, as the other important bits of our history contained in the Smithsonian Museums or glorified in the monuments found all over this city. The areas known as ''The Priest'' and ''Three Ridges'' are a part of our past that is far too valuable, not to be preserved for the future.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As we set things aside today, for use and enjoyment in the future, we often fret over the unforeseen contingencies that might result if we commit to a long-term goal. This is true whether we invest our money in a long-term CD, or invest our public land in a long-term system of natural area protection like the Wilderness Preservation System. What if we need the money for sickness or emergency? What if we need the resources on the land? What if the laws change governing investment income? What if the protection of wilderness areas interferes with the management and protection of the adjoining land? While these fears and concerns may be real and heart-felt, they are not always well-founded in fact.
H.R. 4646 contains one clause that grows out of such fears. It is the provision that deals with fire suppression. The sponsor of the bill, responding to the real fears of one of his constituents, inserted language authorizing local fire departments to attack wild fires on these protected public lands, essentially as they see fit. Unfortunately, while well-motivated and understandable, this clause actually takes us in the wrong direction and actually undermines the entire system by which we protect our most sacred wild lands. What's more, it is unnecessary. Fire suppression is thoroughly addressed in the system-wide regulations and policies that have protected wilderness areas since the act was passed in 1964. The Wilderness Preservation System works.
I urge the committee to perfect this measure by amending H.R. 4646, deleting the unnecessary fire language, and bringing the legislation into conformity with the system-wide language used to designate and protect new wilderness areas. The whole point in the creation of The Wilderness Preservation System was to create just that, a system. Through this system, national interest lands are uniformly protected and managed. The system itself is carefully designed to respond to natural or man-made disasters. We have 36 years of experience that shows us that this system works.
In Virginia, we have faced many threats to our wilderness areas since I have been involved and active in their protection. We have seen fire, flood, insect infestations, search and rescue missions, and even the impacts of acid rain on fragile streams and fish populations. All of these threats required human intervention, often on an emergency basis. In every case the system worked. An appropriate and measured response to each problem was implemented in timely manner, protecting the areas, the adjoining lands, and the integrity of the system.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since first becoming involved in wilderness designations in Virginia in the 1970's, I have heard just about every possible ''what if'' scenario posed as a reason why the Wilderness Preservation System won't work, as written, with a particular area. On numerous occasions, I have represented wilderness advocacy groups in negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Park Service, and other forest user groups including hikers, bear hunters and ORV enthusiasts where contingency planning took place. In not a single case, was the Wilderness Act an obstacle to the protection or use of lands outside the wilderness boundaries, which is the fear behind this provision. In fact, the act actually prohibits the creation of buffer area impacts.
To begin second-guessing the system and start tinkering with time-proven language of the Wilderness Act, is to start pulling threads in the fabric of natural heritage we are trying to weave. The act ,as it was written 36 years ago, and the Wilderness Preservation System, as it has successfully functioned to this day, were created out of collaboration and compromise. The success of the act, and the overwhelming public support of wilderness designations, are evidence that we do not have a problem that needs the solution presented in H.R. 4646.
I want to commend Congressman Goode for his introduction of H.R. 4646, and to thank him for his initiative on this measure. I also want to say that I respect his motivation for including the troublesome language in response to the concerns of a constituent. However, I also want to ask the subcommittee to bring the national perspective to this legislation and filter out the language that undermines the integrity of the entire system. It is unnecessary and, consequently, counterproductive.
Once this language is removed, and H.R. 4646 is brought into harmony with its bipartisan counterpart in the Senate, I hope the committee will move it to the floor will all possible speed. You will allow Virginia and the Nation to mark the new millennium by adding two new jewels to the natural treasure chest we will present to the future.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, again, for the opportunity to address the sub-committee in support of an amended H.R. 4646.
Testimony of Michael S. Dawson
Mr. Chairman, I am testifying in behalf of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) concerning the proposed designation of The Priest and Three Ridges Wilderness study areas as a part of the national wilderness preservation system and the potential impacts of those designations on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Some assumptions we have heard concerning such a designation require correction and some impressions should be clarified.
First, by way of context, the Appalachian Trail Conference, founded in 1925 to coordinate the location and blazing of the Appalachian Trail footpath by private citizens organized in local hiking and outdoors clubs, is now a private, nonprofit educational organization based in Harpers Ferry, WV with approximately 32,000 members in the United States and around the world. Our primary mission remains the volunteer-centered day-to-day maintenance and management of the 2,167-mile Appalachian Trail and its designated public buffer lands. The stewardship of the Trail has been delegated back to us, as Congress intended in the 1968 National Trails System Act, under a series of extraordinary cooperative agreements with the National Park Service and the USDA Forest Service, our primary partners in a network that includes nearly 250 others, including the clubs that continue to do the on-the-ground planning and work.
The Appalachian Trail Conference has been a supporter of wilderness designation for The Priest and Three Ridges areas, as defined by the USDA Forest Service, since the formulation of the last George Washington Forest plan in the mid1980's. Local hiking-club affiliates of the Appalachian Trail Conference maintain 34.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail in existing designated wilderness areas in Virginia, as well as additional miles in other designated wilderness areas in our southern and New England regions. ATC and its member clubs also are advocating additional wilderness designations south of the James River, in the context of the ongoing revision of the Jefferson Forest Plan, that would affect 25 more miles of the Trail.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Clearly, our experience in maintaining and managing the Appalachian Trail and associated facilities, such as shelters and footbridges, in designated wilderness areas, as well as our continuing support for new wilderness-area designations, illustrates our belief that wilderness-area designations generally are compatible with, and can enhance, the primitive outdoor-recreation experience we seek to provide for Appalachian Trail visitors in areas where there are not competing interests (such as the maintained grassy balds in the Mount Pleasant Scenic Area). An estimated three to four million people each year visit the Trail, one-quarter of which is located in Virginia.
It should be noted that wilderness designation does require some accommodations to our traditional trail-construction and -maintenance practices. For example, the prohibition against the use of motorized equipment in wilderness areas in all but the most extreme circumstances certainly adds to the demands placed on our volunteer maintainers, who donate many thousands of hours each year to the Trail project. This is particularly true in the aftermath of major ice storms or hurricane-related damage that is not uncommon in our southern region. (It is perhaps fitting to note that, after hurricane damage broke the continuity of the Trail in 1938 and World War II delayed restoration work, it was on The Priest in 1951 that the Trail was again declared fully open and passable from Maine to Georgia.)
There also are instances where it may be appropriate to adjust proposed wilderness boundaries to exclude important open areas and vistassuch as the grassy balds in the Mount Pleasant Scenic Areathat require active management measures, including the use of motorized or mechanized equipment. We believe that those adjustments have been made by the Forest Service in developing the present wilderness study-area boundaries. We believe the permanent protection of natural and scenic resources proximate to the Trail provided by wilderness designation outweighs the additional costs imposed by limitations on the use of motorized equipment.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Appalachian Trail provides visitors with a full spectrum of opportunities, from deep, natural forest ecosystems to rural farmscapes and even the occasional stretch through a small valley town. However, our ability to retain that full range of opportunities, especially at the wilderness end of the spectrum, is constantly under siege. Only in areas characterized by large blocks of public ownership, such as in the southern Appalachian national forests, can we reasonably hope to provide such an experience. The relative scarcity of remote roadless areas along the 2,167-mile length of the Trail motivates us to do whatever we can to ensure that those areas remain wild.
Our belief in the importance of preserving areas such as The Priest and Three Ridges from uses that can significantly detract from their wilderness valuessuch as timber-management and associated roads or mineral extractionis supported by recent surveys of our visitors. In a major 1999 study, completed this year by the University of Vermont, researchers found that Appalachian Trail visitors ranked undisturbed views from the Trail and the feeling of being immersed in a natural setting to be two of the most important aspects of their Trail experience. This was true for both day-hikers and long-distance hikers.
It is our understanding that an issue has surfaced recently related to fire-suppression and search-and-rescue operations and the possible need for language in any wilderness-designation bill to allow for motorized access to accommodate those needs. To the best of our knowledge, this has not been a problem in other designated wilderness areas in Virginia or elsewhere. We have no particular objection to the insertion of such language, although such an insertion could be of concern to other wilderness-advocacy constituencies. We respectfully suggest, however, that an alternative approach might be the inclusion of relevant language in the legislative history or report accompanying the bill.
In that regard, we also respectfully suggest the inclusion of some language clarifying the relationship of the Appalachian Trail and its management to the surrounding wilderness area(s). Inserted below is sample text taken from the committee report on the Virginia Wilderness Act of 1984. Similar language has been incorporated in a number of other wilderness-designation bills for areas bordering or encompassing portions of the Appalachian Trail and is intended to reassure the administering agency that Congress recognizes the Appalachian Trail, its associated facilities, and their management as compatible uses within the wilderness area.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAPPALACHIAN TRAIL
As noted previously in this Report, many of the wilderness proposals of the bill are traversed by portions of the Appalachian Trail. In designating the wilderness areas in the bill, the committee believes that the Trail (and other trails) and its related structures represent a desirable existing use which is deemed compatible with wilderness. Specifically, it is the intent of the committee that the Forest Service should continue traditional management practices for this use, including trail marking and footpath maintenance. Structure (shelter) maintenance may also be permitted and desirable for the protection of the wilderness and health and safety of persons within the area. Management decisions in this regard should be developed in consultation and coordination with the Appalachian Trail Conference and other interested organizations and individuals.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the committee for its consideration of the designation of The Priest and Three Ridges areas as wilderness areas. Those two study areas have been managed as quasiwilderness for the past fourteen years. It is time now to make their status as wilderness permanent. We stand ready to be of service to the committee and its staff in any way we can.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity.
Testimony of Kim T. Cash
My name is Kim Cash and I live with my husband and young son in Montebello, VA. Our families have lived in Nelson County since the late 1700's and we love this area for its unique natural beauty. I appreciate this opportunity to present testimony in support of H.R. 4646.
Like many Nelson County residents, I have watched expanding development with concern and often wondered if there will be any unspoiled places left when my 5-year-old is grown. When a permanent Wilderness Designation was recommended for The Priest and Three Ridges, two majestic mountains in my backyard, I immediately recognized the benefits of this pure protection. Those of us who live near these mountains treasure their pristine natural beauty and seek to preserve a part of our natural heritage for our children. A Federal designation would allow us to continue all recreational activities including hiking, camping, fishing and hunting; but protect these mountains from invasive activities such as logging, mining and development. In addition, preserving these mountains also provides protection for our native trout streams and the Tye River watershed.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As tourism is the largest industry in Nelson County, many of our residents rely on our county's natural beauty to attract visitors. We believe there will be economic benefits to this designation. Many of us feel that eco-tourism or low-impact tourism is our most valuable asset. Tourists who come to hike and camp but have little effect on our environment provide sustainable income for our residents. We need the tourism dollars that outdoor enthusiasts spend.
As fire suppression has been a concern, it is important to look at the way fires in our area have been handled in the past. I have been a member and officer of the Montebello Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad for over 10 years. During that time I have worked numerous fires on, and adjacent to, Forest Service managed lands. Our county protocol requires that the local fire agency be notified immediately followed by notification of the Forest Service. Upon receiving information on a fire, our local volunteers quickly respond to begin an initial attack. Due to the steep and rugged nature of this area, this initial attack involves hand-digging a fire line around the fire. If we need to use chainsaws, our experience with the Forest Service shows very quick response for permission. When the Forest Service arrives on scene, the fire effort then falls under their jurisdiction. Our agency provides support for their efforts in the form of medical personnel or fire manpower. Please understand that this protocol works for our local agencies. We do not have the manpower, equipment or air attack apparatus needed to fight fires in this rugged terrain. Having worked many of these fires personally, I have watched the Forest Service personnel manage their attack. They are able to rapidly bring in the manpower and equipment necessary to contain the fire. I have witnessed how quickly then can obtain permission for whatever is needed. Our Fire and Rescue members are comfortable with the protocols that have been in place since these areas were first designated as wilderness study areas.
As there is no private land within this proposed designation, any fire on private property would be on adjoining lands. A fire on, or threatening, private land falls under the local fire agency's jurisdiction. We will fight that fire with every piece of equipment available to us. We do not need permission from the Forest Service to use chainsaws or any other equipment on private land.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As an Emergency Medical Technician with our agency, I have also worked search and rescues within the study area. The working relationship with our District Ranger has been excellent. In a recent search for a distressed hiker in the area of The Priest in August, we telephoned the Forest Service office and received permission within five minutes from our District Ranger to use whatever was necessary for the search.
In summary, the protocols in place since The Priest and Three Ridges became wilderness study areas work for our local fire and rescue personnel making the special fire language unnecessary. It has been my experience that the Forest Service uses every available resource to attack fires in these areas. In addition, the working relationship between the Forest Service and the local agency has always been mutually respectful.
As a member of our local Fire and Rescue and as a resident living close to these two beautiful mountains, I respectfully ask that you move H.R. 4646 forward without the special fire language. When the written Forest Service policy is judged against their past fire suppression actions in our area, I believe that the standing protocols have been historically verified.
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."