U.S. Forest Service ignores responsibility to protect Jefferson National Forest

May 15, 2023

Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683, dan@appvoices.org

U.S. Forest Service ignores responsibility to protect Jefferson National Forest
Agency issues Record of Decision to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross federal land

Washington, D.C. — Today, for the third time, the U.S. Forest Service has revised the rules of the Jefferson National Forest Plan to allow the harmful Mountain Valley Pipeline to be constructed through national forest in Giles and Montgomery counties, Virginia, and Monroe County, West Virginia.

In today’s Record of Decision, the agency again concluded that construction of MVP should be allowed across the uniquely special federal land. That conclusion ignores outstanding concerns about the proposed changes to standards for soil health, old-growth forest, forest edge, species competition and scenic viewshed standards will bring significant harmful impacts to biodiversity and lands held in the public trust.

Two previous decisions made by the Forest Service allowing construction through the JNF were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in 2018 and 2022. At this time, the Bureau of Land Management has not released its Record of Decision, which is also required for the pipeline to be constructed through the JNF.

Mountain Valley Pipeline developers still lack authorizations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and litigation is pending regarding the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s recently issued Biological Opinion. Additionally, the Forest Service declined to consider recently submitted filings related to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Biological Opinion.

Today’s Forest Service action includes a condition prohibiting pipeline construction activity in the forest until the company “has obtained all Federal and State authorization outstanding for the entire project.” As a result, pipeline construction in the Jefferson National Forest cannot immediately resume.

Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, said:
“The Forest Service’s preferred alternative to allow MVP to rip through the Jefferson National Forest grossly underestimates the lasting environmental harms from the project, ignores the overwhelming public opposition to sacrificing this treasured land and shirks the agency’s responsibility to steward forests. We maintain that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot be built through the Jefferson National Forest without lasting damage to sensitive forests, habitats and waters. Amending a forest plan 11 times to accommodate a ruinous project on treasured federal land is unacceptable.”