By Brian Wheeler
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
State and local environmental protection advocates gathered in Darden Towe Park on Wednesday to warn about federal legislation that they said poses a clear and present danger to the Shenandoah National Park and other wilderness lands in Virginia.
Activists said unless the bills pending in Congress are stopped, wilderness areas in Virginia will be threatened by road building, development and resource extraction.
Charlottesville City Councilor Dede Smith said public parks are “some of our nation’s greatest treasures.”
“Here in Virginia we are lucky enough to have one of our crown jewels in our own backyard,” said Smith. “More than one million people come to the Shenandoah National Park every year for its spectacular vistas, its quiet hollows and cascading waterfalls.”
The press conference was timed with the release of a report by Environment America, entitled “Trashing our Treasures: Congressional Assault on the Best of America.”
Priscilla Lin is a Washington-based preservation assistant with Environment Virginia, an affiliate of Environment America. The environmental advocacy organization works “to promote clean air, clean water and preserve natural spaces.”
“If passed, the three bills highlighted in this report would have particularly devastating impacts on Shenandoah,” Lin said. “The American Lands Act [H.R. 2588] would require the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to sell 8 percent of their lands annually until 2016 to the highest bidder.”
“The Wilderness and Roadless Release Act [H.R. 1581] and the Wilderness Development Act [H.R. 2834] would allow road building and logging in the most pristine and sensitive areas of Shenandoah National Park,” Lin said.
The latter bill’s official name is actually the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.
Kyle Bonini is communications director for Michigan Republican Rep. Dan Benishek, the sponsor of the bill.
“The claim that Dr. Benishek’s Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities legislation would allow logging in any national park is factually incorrect,” Bonini said. “The bill is a common sense measure to protect the long-standing tradition of hunting and fishing on federal lands, but explicitly does not apply to logging in areas like Shenandoah National Park or any of the national parks in America.”