Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

An update on that national park announcement

Oh my.

It appears one of my humble blog posts touched a nerve, and a rather sensitive one at that.

In Wednesday’s post, I detailed how national park designation for West Virginia’s northern Allegheny Highlands might cause the area to be closed to hunting, and might affect trout stockings too. Within hours, Judy Rodd, the source quoted in Paul Nyden’s original Gazette story about the potential park, posted a reply to the blog, which read as follows:

Hunting would be allowed in the proposed High Allegheny Park and Preserve and in fact would be encouraged. Fishing would also be a main attraction. — Judy Rodd, Friends of High Allegheny National Park.

Not long after that, I received a phone call from Marni Goldberg, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Ms. Goldberg explained that Sen. Manchin would never support legislation that might curb hunting in West Virginia’s mountain highlands or anywhere else. She said Manchin was willing to consider the area as a preserve, but not as a full-fledged national park.  She offered to e-mail me a formal statement from the senator, which read as follows:

“Senator Manchin is a lifelong hunting enthusiast and is committed to making sure that the Alleghany Highlands remain open to hunting if the area receives a new designation from the National Parks Service.”

So apparently the idea is to create in northeastern West Virginia something akin to the New River Gorge National River in the south — an area administered by the National Park Service, but not a full-fledged no-hunting national park.

I find it intriguing that Rodd’s reply to the blog post referred to the proposed area as “High Allegheny Park and Preserve,” while her signature line affiliated her with an entity called “Friends of High Allegheny National Park.” Did the word “preserve” only recently get added to the name, and if so, why?

I also find it intriguing that the original Gazette story sent shock waves through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. My sources there say interoffice e-mails were flying fast and furious.  Apparently they didn’t get the “hunting will be allowed” memo, either.

I might be wrong, but my reading of the tea leaves is that proponents of the “High Allegheny Park and Preserve” didn’t adequately address the question of hunting in their early public-relations efforts, or possibly they failed to gauge the backlash that would result from a push for a full-fledged national park.

According to the National Park Service’s own website, a “preserve” designation is possible for lands where hunting is important to the local populace. Hunting is allowed on reserves. The Denali and the Wrangell-St. Elias parks in Alaska are examples, as is the Big Cypress Reserve in Florida.

The website also says that when lands receive the full “National Park” designation, hunting is not allowed.

The Park Service’s study of the High Allegheny National Park and Preserve issue will begin soon. My guess is that the issues of hunting and fishing will be adequately addressed.