On Earth Day, 2004, U.S. Represenative Rick Boucher, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator John Warner, a Republican, introduced companion bills in Congress (H.R. 4202 and S. 2342) to create four new wilderness areas and two new national scenic areas on the Jefferson National Forest in Southwest Virginia. The proposed legislation will also expand five existing wilderness areas on the Jefferson.
The bill, The Ridge and Valley Wilderness and National Scenic Area Act of 2004, would provide lasting protection for around 40,000 acres in portions of Craig, Grayson, Giles, Lee, Montgomery and Smyth counties.
“As a father and grandfather, I feel an obligation to ensure that our children have lasting opportunities to enjoy and explore Virginia’s immense natural beauty,” Senator Warner said.
Warner continued, “This bill will preserve some of our most pristine lands for future generations and add significantly to the natural attractions of Southwest Virginia.”
The legislation has been endorsed by numerous county boards of supervisors, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, dozens of businesses in Southwest Virginia, and a number of conservation groups. The Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, Virginia Wilderness Committee, and Southern Environmental Law Center worked together to facilitate the effort.
“This wilderness legislation is the product of years of work,” said Mark Shelley, Executive Director of the Asheville, NC-based Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.
“We are happy and excited that so many in the community have come together on this effort. Now we must all work together to help the Virginia delegation get this bill passed.”
In commenting on the proposal, Representative Rick Boucher said, “Southwest Virginia possesses the state’s best outdoor experience, with the highest mountains, most interesting rivers and superb hunting, camping, fishing, hiking and backpacking opportunities.”
The legislation would not only provide permanent protection for these areas, Boucher stated, “but would also enhance the tourism economy of the region by enticing travelers to visit and view the protected and untouched landscape that southwest Virginia has to offer.”
To learn more about the proposed wilderness areas, contact the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition at www.safc.org or 1-888-8FOREST.