This morning we awoke to a gorgeous snow covered Valley. Here are some images of the Middle River.
Valley hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists of all forms need to take some time and pay attention to the George Washington National Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan revision process. As the schedule now stands, the draft plan may be ready in late spring 2009.
According to their Web site, “The purpose of this land management plan is to provide broad guidance and information for project and activity decision making needed to manage the George Washington National Forest [GW].”
The forest’s planning staff has been holding public workshops on various aspects of the plan revisions since early 2007. Two more workshops are coming up with the subject: Forest Plan Components, fitting the workshops and other information together toward a Draft Plan.
There is a workshop today from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Rockbridge Co. High School in Lexington and another on Feb. 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock.
The U.S. Forest Service held seven public meetings last March to introduce people to the Forest Plan revision process. In July, five meetings were held to continue the discussions on changes needed and what to concentrate on in the Forest Plan revision process.
This fall workshops were held to discuss three different subjects, Vegetation Management, Road and Trail Access and Wilderness, Roadless and Potential Wilderness Areas.
These workshops are the most important ones for recreational users. The challenges surrounding access, timber harvesting, wilderness designations and off road vehicle use can really get people’s blood boiling.
Of special interest is the amount of Potential Wilderness Area and the impact that could have on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
Let me be clear from the outset. Because land is included in a Potential Wilderness Area doesn’t change the way it is managed today. Only Congress has the authority to designate wilderness.
Today, 37 areas totaling 370,000 acres are identified as Potential Wilderness Areas in the George Washington National Forest. An additional 42,000 acres are designated Wilderness Area and 7,700 acres are National Scenic Areas. That represents just over 40 percent of the forest.
Don’t get me wrong Wilderness Areas are great. They provide a number of very important ecological and recreational benefits. They are some of my favorite places to fish and hunt.
Having more in the George Washington National Forest is a good idea. Where they are is going to be the challenge.
Most types of recreational uses are allowed in Wilderness Areas except those involving motorized equipment.
Wilderness Areas by federal law have significant restrictions, however. Timber harvesting, road building, clearing and waterhole development, and other wildlife management techniques cannot be performed in Wilderness Areas.
These activities, if done correctly, are important tools for enhancing recreational activities. If the land base available for wildlife habitat management is significantly reduced then hunting could suffer.
Over the years, the U.S. Forest Service, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries along with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Ruffed Grouse Society have invested manpower and money developing and maintaining wildlife habitats.
Some of the lands identified for Potential Wilderness Area include many existing wildlife habitat developments, including clearings and waterholes. These wildlife clearings provide much-needed habitat. Designating all these areas as Wilderness could eliminate these clearings as natural succession returns them over time to a forested state.
Much of this area is popular with wildlife recreational users who depend on the George Washington National Forest for access to wildlife populations. Fishing for native Brook Trout takes place in some of these areas. Bear, deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, raccoon, rabbit, squirrel and other species are hunted in these areas. The wildlife habitat value of these lands has been enhanced by previous timber harvesting and wildlife habitat work.
So there needs to be a balance.
There is a lot of good information on the George Washington National Forest Plan Revision Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/forestplan/revision/index.shtml.
There you will find documents, schedules and how to make your views known.
I won’t kid you. This can be hard stuff to wade through. It takes time and effort to read all the information and comments. But our ability to enjoy our public lands requires engagement on our part.
Take some time to offer your thoughts to the Forest Service. Your ideas are just as important and count as much as the next guy’s, but only if you share them.
On a more personal note, thank you for the kind words about my friends Jim Range and Jean Ince. They were warmly appreciated.
Jim’s memorial service took place on Tuesday January 27, along the banks of the Potomac River at Fletchers Cove in Washington. More than 200 of his friends and colleagues joined with his family in celebrating his life and many accomplishments.
Mixed in with the copious tears were many moments of hearty laughter as those in attendance responded to tales and reflections of Range. His life was magic for all us and in celebrating his life we relived that magic.
You can go to JimRange.com to capture a glimpse of his remarkable life. The Web site, created to honor and memorialize his life, has a wonderful collection of stories, pictures and tributes to Range.
There is a wonderful Web site in memory of Jim Range. It has pages and pages of tributes, stories and pictures about this remarkable, irrepressible, and irreplaceable human being.
My tribute in this morning’s News Virginian:
There are some columns one would prefer never to write. This is one of them.
Please indulge me as I reflect on two people who are no longer with us. Not to mourn their loss so much as to celebrate their lives.
On Tuesday morning one of my very closest friends lost his battle with cancer.
He was like a brother to me. The best man in my wedding, a hunting and fishing partner of many years and the voice on the other end of the phone keeping me strong when trouble came. And oh, the whiskey we drank.
Many of you have never heard of James D. Range. But all of you have been touched by his work. He was a conservation hero. Embodying a conservation ethic on the scale of Roosevelt, Leopold, Muir and Pinchot.
One of my most cherished memories, from many years ago, is standing with him in my dining room one night. We got choked up looking out at the fields and woods where I lived.
He told me that not a lot of folks were willing to protect the things he, I and many of you love so much like fish, wildlife and the wild things of this earth. He said, “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.”
Tears streamed down our faces. Big men do cry.
Range was a modern architect of natural resource conservation. A skilled bipartisan policy and political genius with an extraordinary network of friends and contacts.
Range had wonderful oratorical gifts, a way of always speaking from his heart, sometimes in language not fit for a family newspaper. You may not have liked what he said but you surely knew what he thought.
He was the personification of “if they don’t see the light, we can surely make them feel the heat.”
Range’s fingerprints are all over the nation’s conservation laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. His championing of conservation tax incentives earned him a profile in Time magazine.
He ably chaired the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Board of Directors pouring his enormous energy into its resurrection.
He served with distinction and candor on the Board’s of Trout Unlimited, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Valles Caldera Trust and the Yellowstone Park Foundation.
Range was an original board member of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, helping to chart the outstanding course it is on today. He also held presidential appointments to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council.
In 2003, Range received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Great Blue Heron Award, the highest honor given to an individual at the national level by the Department.
He was also awarded the 2003 Outdoor Life Magazine Conservationist of the Year Award and the Norville Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association.
Range’s greatest love was the outdoors. He fished and hunted all over the world. I suspect he was happiest however, at his place on the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.
Flyway Ranch was his sanctuary. A sanctuary, which, in typical Range fashion, he shared with friends and colleagues so they too could enjoy a respite from challenges both personal and professional.
Beside his multitude of friends and admirers, Range is survived by his father, Dr. James Range of Johnson City, Tenn., brothers John Neel, Harry and Peter, twin daughters Allison and Kimberly, and loyal bird dogs Plague, Tench and Sky.
Range may be gone but we will be telling stories about him for the rest of our lives.
The Valley lost another friend recently as well. She was one of Range’s favorite people and the mother of his girlfriend Anni.
Jean Marion Gregory Ince, died on Jan. 12 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. She and her husband Eugene St. Clair Ince, Jr. and her beloved golden retriever “Meg” were residents of Madison.
Like Range, Jean Ince was a giver. She and Meg, a certified therapy dog, worked with patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville and at the Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville.
Anni told me her mom, like Range, loved the outdoors and animals, particularly horses and dogs. She said that love was passed on to her children and grandchildren as well.
Jean and Bud enjoyed a special relationship. They wrote about it in the December 1978 issue of GOURMET Magazine. An Evening at the Waldorf chronicles the evening of their engagement.
It is a wonderfully engaging story of a young couple, a special hotel, and a time when doing for others was a common practice.
I hope you will take a moment to read it. It is a gift that will make any day a better one.
You can find a copy of An Evening at the Waldorf at http://www.usna.org/family/waldorf.html.
Jim Range and Jean Ince have made our world a better place. Their friends and families miss them but their memories will warm our hearts forever.
NOTE: A website, JimRange.com has been created in his honor. You can learn more about Jim and see pictures and stories from his friends.
We are all reading or hearing about the economic stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama and Congress will be working on. Whether you think it is a good idea or not, the likelihood that some form of stimulus package will become law is pretty much a certainty.
Last month, 31 hunting, fishing, conservation and environmental organizations jointly sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, supporting additional funding for habitat conservation and green infrastructure projects.
What I found very interesting and frankly refreshing about who had signed the letter was that these 31 groups have not always been willing to work together.
Environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society joined with the American Sportfishing Association, the Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in support of specific conservation funding.
The letter stated, “The attached recommendations represent a unique consensus among a wide range of organizations specifically aimed at habitat-oriented projects that benefit fish and wildlife while stimulating local economies, particularly through job creation.”
This is a remarkable turn of events. Hopefully one that will become a pattern and not an exception.
Like many, I am not sure the answer to our nation’s economic woes is more government spending. But, if taxpayer funds are going to be used to stimulate the economy then using that money for habitat conservation, public access and recreational opportunity makes sense.
Investments in our natural resources offer a variety of economic benefits. Hunting, fishing and other recreational activities are economic engines that provide tax revenue, conservation dollars and jobs for local economies.
These organizations point out that investments in conservation projects provide job-creation opportunities in engineering, landscaping, hydrology and other biological fields. These types of projects need specialized equipment operators, construction crews and many other skilled laborers.
The group noted, “Our estimates indicate that over 160,000 jobs would be created through this funding request. This figure represents direct job creation as a result of the proposed stimulus investments and does not include secondary job creation. Most of these programs and projects would be initiated and jobs created within 3-6 months, with the goal of completing obligations within one year.”
When you add it all up, these groups are recommending an investment of nearly $9 billion. Seems like a lot of money doesn’t it? Sure does to me.
But if you look at it as part of the whole and if the current $700 billion being discussed is close to the final amount, then these programs will only get a bit more than one and a quarter percent of the total.
I think our natural resources, fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities deserve that and more.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific recommendations.
For the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, they recommend increased funding for Habitat Restoration Programs like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, the Fish Passage Program and the Coastal Program. Because of the project backlog in each of these programs increased funding would immediately lead to more jobs.
Another U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that could use more money is the North American Wetland Conservation Act grants program. NAWCA has a great track record of success. Demand for these grants is growing and exceeds current funding levels.
New funding would mean engineering and construction related jobs. Given the importance of wetlands and the continued projected losses of this critical habitat, more NAWCA grants make sense.
The National Park Service is another important agency in desperate need of funding. Estimates of the operations and maintenance backlog are somewhere north of $8 billion, more than half of that amount is needed just for road and trail repair.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a number of important conservation programs at the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The groups making the recommendations point out that U.S. Forest Service could use funding assistance for sustainable forests. Funds would be used to improve water quality and wildlife habitat while ensuring a supply of wood and forest products.
Programs like Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation with a backlog of more than $400 million, would use the funding to improve recreational access and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
Wildfire is a growing worry. More than 100 million acres of state, private and national forests are at risk across the nation. Funding for hazardous fuels reduction and post-fire restoration would help make our rural communities safer, provide jobs, support local economies and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
Valley residents and visitors know what an asset our National Parks and National Forests are. Using new funding to improve these important recreational venues is a smart investment.
Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor recreations are important contributors to our national economy. Hunters and anglers spend $76 billion each year to enjoy their sports. They are an economic engine with a “ripple effect” of $192 billion.
That ripple effect means people have jobs and local economies thrive. Besides the direct hunting and fishing jobs, other businesses benefit – businesses like gas stations, retail, restaurants and hotels in every state and congressional district.
As taxpayers we have a right and duty to express our views on how the government spends our money. If we are going to spend the money, then these programs and projects are worthwhile investments.
Take the time to tell our elected officials that hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are important to our economy and deserve financial support.
You can read more of my columns in the News Virginian.
My friends at Blue Ribbon Flies turned me on to this terrific general purpose nymph. I have used it in the mountain streams here in the east and the big rivers in the west. It is one of my favorite “go to” patterns.
Tying the Shop Vac.
Hook: Nymph (sizes 20-12)
Body: Zelon Pheasant Tail Dubbing
Rib: Copper wire (thin)
Wing: White Zelon
Step 1: Place a gold bead on the hook
Step 2: Attach thread and tie in gold wire behind bead.
Step 3: Wrap thread over wire to half way down the hook bend.
Step 4: Dub the body forward to just behind the bead.
Step 5: Reverse wrap wire forward to just behind the bead.
Step 6: Attach wing, by folding zelon over the thread and sliding it up behind the bead.
Step 7: Whip finish and trim the wings back to approximately the width of the hook gap.
Change bead color and wire color for variety.
Classic pattern uses real pheasant tail (4-6 fibers). Zelon dubbing is more durable.