Every year, members of the Legislature try things that make West Virginians put their hands over their faces and shake their heads in disbelief.
Senate Current Resolution 3 had that effect on me.
The resolution, introduced on Feb. 12 by Sens. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, and Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, seeks to urge the U.S. Congress to “reopen public lands in the State of West Virginia.”
Perhaps I’m a bit dense, but I didn’t know the state’s public lands were closed. Last I checked, people have been hunting, fishing, hiking and camping in state- and federally owned lands ever since those lands were made public.
Yeah, that’s a bit sarcastic. Sorry.
Sens. Maynard and Rucker seemed to have had specific uses of public land in mind when they co-sponsored the resolution, namely for off-road vehicles and for timbering.
Consider the resolution’s language:
“Whereas, Off-highway vehicle recreation has demonstrated a tremendous economic benefit of at least $43 billion throughout the United States and to West Virginia, in particular; and
“Whereas, West Virginia has an unparalleled opportunity to replace lost jobs with new employment supporting off-highway vehicle recreation; and
“Whereas, West Virginia currently suffers from the highest rates of drug overdose deaths, and the actual number of deaths due to opioid overdose has quadrupled since 2010, but wilderness therapy programs, outdoor recreation, and off-highway vehicle recreation have demonstrated positive health effects for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and individuals with opioid addictions; and
“Whereas, Resumption of logging in the national forests will bring both economic benefits to the state and to the national budget as well as reduction in the potential for devastating wildfires through proper forest management and timbering practices; and
“Whereas, The public benefits of maintaining West Virginia’s recreation economy, opportunities for outdoor therapy, and vital logging industry provide powerful reasons to restore full access to nationally managed public lands in this state; therefore, be it
“Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
“That the Legislature hereby urges the United States Congress to reopen public lands in the State of West Virginia.”
So really, what Sens. Maynard and Rucker appear to want is for Congress to open the state’s public lands to off-road vehicle riding and timbering.
They didn’t really specify which public lands they were talking about. Were they referring to federally owned lands such as the Monongahela National Forest, the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge and the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve?
Or were they referring to all public lands, which would include state parks, state forests and state wildlife management areas? And why even stop there? Heck, let’s throw in county and city parks for good measure!
Let ATVs and dirt bikes burn up the trails and dirt roads! Bring in crews to cut down the trees! The public will enjoy it, we promise!
Somehow, I don’t see West Virginia’s congressional delegation signing off on this one.