A new bill introduced this fall intends to shift the designation of the New River Gorge National River to a national park and preserve. Sen. Shelley Moore (R-WV) and Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) introduced the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.
A 2018 study found that redesignating an area as a national park increases visitors by 21 percent on average, so the plan would likely benefit West Virginia’s $9 billion outdoor recreation industry. The legislation also intends to preserve most of the area’s hunting and fishing lands, but hunting would be prohibited on 5,000 to 6,000 acres of the park’s 72,000 total acres. This has raised concerns from some local businesses and hunters.
In October, U.S. Senators Capito and Joe Manchin (D-WV), along with Rep. Miller, led a public discussion about the bill in Lansing, W.Va., that was attended by community and business leaders. When asked if they supported the bill, a majority of the crowd raised their hands, according to the Associated Press.
For some local organizations, like Friends of the New River Gorge, all that matters is that the land remains protected.
“Friends of the New River Gorge National River’s purpose and mission is to support the National Park Service in its effort to preserve and protect the New River Gorge, Bluestone National Scenic River and the Gauley River National Recreation Area, regardless of the formal designation(s),” Anna Ziegler, the organization’s president, wrote in an email. — By Rachael Kelley