Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 16, 1972 · Page 34
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July 16, 1972

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 34

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 16, 1972
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Page 34
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·C--July 16, 1972 * Sunday GaxettG'Mail ChtrWon, Watt Virginia Forest Service Road Opposed As 'Bear Country' Intrusion Wide swath through the forest is being cleared for a four-mile section of road in the Monongahela Na- tional Forest near Elkins. The road will slice into one of four major black bear breeding areas in the state and is opposed by the Department of Natural Resources. ' (Photo by Jim Cooper) By Skip Johnson Island Creek Coal Coal Co. has completed core-drilling in the Otter Creek wilderness of Randolph and Tucker Counties, but there is no word on the quantity or quality of the coal underlying this portion of the Monongahela National Forest. Kathy Manning, geologist for the U. S. Forest Service, declined to comment on the findings. "It is really Island Creek's information." she pointed out. Keith Casteel, manager of the coal firm's northern division and supervisor of the Otter Creek operation, was away from his .office last weeK and unavailable for comment. Manning, who rode in and out of Otter Creek with the core drillers, also declined to comment on whether the ecological damage caused by the horseback operation was ereater than if it had been carried out with helicnnters or bulldozers. "That's a judgment thins," said Miss Manning. "I'd rather it would be answered by someone who is more familiar with trails than I am." The Green Mountain Trail, which was the main route used by the core drillers, received quite a battering, no doubt about that. When Gazette nhotogranher Larry Pierce and I rode into Otter Creek this spring to do a story on the operation, the trail was knee-deep in mud in some nlaces and deenly rutted. Undoubtedly there is some sentiment within the forest service that the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy's successful effort to halt mechanized core drilling was a hollow victory. * * * Horseback Operation Is Defended However, it's hard to imagine that the trail wouldn't heal more quickly from horse traffic than would the scars of a road bulldozed through the forest. The use of helicopters would have reouired clearing timber off large landing areas, and it might also have been prohibitively expensive for the coal firm, which favored the use of bulldozers. At any rate, the highlands conservancv and the coal firm agreed on horses as a comnromise, and the six-month trek in and out of Otter Creek transporting tons of drilling equipment and accessories was unioue in the nation. Helen McGinnis, a member of the conservancy whose specialty is keeping a finger on the Otter Creek nie, doesn't agree with the forest service that the horse traffic was more damaging th?n bui'Hozed roads would have been. "The Green Moutain trail isn't pleasant walking these days," she wrote in the conservancy newsletter, "but no worse than a number of trails heavilv used by pack stock in the West. Once ooerations finish, it will ouickly recover. The fallen trees along the bulldozed road (about two miles of road was bulldozed before the conservancy obtained an injunction) will remain for years, and the road itself will be an invitation for continued vehicular use of the Otter Creek basin. "The crews have done a fine job on the side trails leading from the main trail They are just 'one lane' wide and it's hard to find snots where trees or branches have been cut." What hardens now depends on what Island Creek decides to do with the coal, assuming it's there in mineable quantities and quality. Mrs, Paul Still On Bear's Side HERE AND THERE: After the Wildlife Resources Division sent out a release last week quoting division chief Dan Cantner as being concerned over illegal bear kills and possible misuse Of the bear-sheep law, his first call of support came from Mrs. Freda Paul, a 1972 member of the House of Delegates from Cabell Countv who introduced unsuccessful bills that would have (1) banned bear hunting or (2) drastically curtailed it. Mrs. Paul is running for re-election. . .Jess Phillips of Nitro, former West Virginia trapshooting champion (1967 singles winner), had open heart surgery earlier this year and is at home recuperating. He attended the state shoot last weekend at Westvaco Sportsman Club. . .Sebe Campbell, who was gunning for his second successive title but lost in a shootoff with Frank Hall and Kinzy Smith, missed his seventh target on the first round of 25 in the shootoff. "It floated out to the left nice and easy and I just missed it." said Campbell. . .Citizens to Abolish Strip Mining held g meeting Saturday week sgo in Elkins. and according to the Elkir.s Inter-Mountain, about a third of the audience was composed of strip mine workers and strip mine owners. "The meeting frequently erupted into shouts and angry accusations," the Inter-Mountain reported. It quoted one strip miner as saying "you can't live off fishing and hunting." The ski lift at Canaan Valley State Park is operating daily from II a.m. to sundown, carrying sightseers to the top of the mountain overlooking the lower portion of Canaan Valley. A s»ate parks official described traffic thus far as "moderate." BEAR COUNTRY Dept. of Natural Resources Is Fighting To Save Breeding Areas Atop Rugged Cheat By Skip Johnson The U. S. Forest Service is; juilding a road in the Monongahela National Forest that is drawing opposition from the Department of Natural Resources [DNR) and some private citizens who fear it will be detrimental to the black bear population in the state. Construction h a s a l r e a d y started on the 4.1-mile road along the top of rugged Cheat Mountain in Randolph County near Elkins. The road, which will connect two forest service roads already in existence, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 1973. It will cost $321,698. ·The road either goes through or on the fringe of one of four remaining black bear breeding areas in the state. The DNR says it will go through the center of the northern Cheat Mountain breeding area. The forest service says it will be on the fringe of the area. Having lost the battle against construction of the road, the DNR is now opposed to ha-ving It opened to unrestricted public', use. It wants. the road to be gated, as is the forest service road along Cranberry River through the Cranberry Back Country near Rich wood. DNR game biologists feel that opening of the road for public travel would seriously endanger and probably eliminate the black bear population on Cheat Mountain because of the resultant increase in human disturbance. "It isn't roads that create problems," says Dan Cantner, chief of the DNR's wildlife resources division, "it's the use of the roads" Game biologists define bear breeding habitat in West Virginia as "a minimum of 50 square miles of wilderness-type area where human disturbance is limited." The Cheat Mountain range is one of four general areas in the state which meet this requirement. Others are Cranberry Back Country, Otter Creek .in Rsndolph County and the Cold Knob area of Greenbrier County. THE FOREST SERVICE and the DNR are in basic disagreement on the root cause of the bear's precarious position in West Virginia (game biologists estimate the population at no more than 500 animals). Monongahela supervisor Tony Dorrell contended in a recent letter to DNR director Ira S. Latimer Jr. that "people, not roads" are the biggest threat to the state animal. He pointed out that 23 non-seasonal bear kills were logged in West Virginia in 1971. "Our position is that there is a lot of speculation on the bear," commented Jack Weis,sling of the Monongahela, "and what you hear depends on who you talk to." The final decision to build the Cheat Mountain road was made by Dorrell, who has been promoted to' forest service headquarters in Washington, D. C., and will be leaving the Monongahela next Friday. Dorrell was unavailable for comment last week, but Weissling said the road is being build for multiple purposes, in- cluding timber management and recreation. He -said recreation uses would include "hunting and general sightseeing." { One of the existing roads which will be connected by the new road is Forest Service Rt. 92 which provides access to the proposed, controversial Linan coal mines on the Shavers Fork River. 'Weissling denied that the linkup has any connection with the proposed mining activity. "I think what some peole are afraid of," he said, "is that if we put the road in, it would make it easier to open mines in other areas." As to the DNR's request that the road be gated, Weissling commented that "there are no plans right now either way. We realize that the road is on the fringe of one of four fo five remaining bear breeding areas, and this will be rcognized in planning. We figure we have plenty of time to look at all the angles." Weissling said the public will have the opportunity to comment on the rOad and its uses when planning for the Shavers Fork unit of the Monongahela reaches the public involvement stage sometime this fall. Asked if recreation uses of the road would preclude its being gated, Weissling replied that "it could. It depends on what con- cerns are the most over-riding." DNR wildlife chief Cantner commented that "whether the road will be gated really rests with the public. If enough interest is shown in gating it, it will be gated." Walter Lesser, a DNR game biologist stationed at Elkins, disagrees with forest service contention that the road will only skirt the fringe of the bear area. "It's certainly not on the fringe," says Lesser. "I think the significant thing here is the fact that the road will be responsible for a lot more use of the entire area by connecting the two existing roads." Lesser points out that Gaylord Yost, ranger on the Greenbrier district of the Monongahela--the d i s t r ic. t which embraces the road- recommended that the road not be constructed. Monongahela supervisor Dorrell and DNR director Latimer have had at least two exchanges of letters on the road. Prior to the awarding of the contract, Latimer wrote Dorrell expressing the DNR's concern over the road's potential effects on the black bear population. After the contract was let, Lati- the "pert A college t * SUPER AGENCY Presents A ISDPERFACTl "JUS _. graduate just out of school.--What to do?--* A. C. E., of course! Two interviews, two job offers? and a happy ending. Ed is on his way up! Boom,* bamb! Super Agency--A. C. E. has done if again.* YnilP CIIMAP * All M* «!«*· f Ma* ·!··» »»,«m.ml» » f 1 E a^- * I Your super counselor for this week is C. E. Carter. A.C.E. America's Center for Employment 816 QUARRIE* STREET PHONE 344-9841 HAVE MORE BILLS THAN YOUR INCOME WILL COVER! 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