February 03, 2012

Manchin to National Park Service: You Must Protect Hunting, Fishing

Manchin will not support park survey without written confirmations from National Park Service that they will respect cherished traditions of hunting and fishing, as well as resource extraction

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sent a letter to the Director of the National Park Service this week asking for written assurances that West Virginia’s hunting and fishing heritage would be protected if any new parks are created in the state, or he would withdraw his support for a survey of areas in and around Tucker County.
“Without unequivocal statements from the National Park Service that allay my concerns and those of my constituents, I will not support this effort moving forward whatsoever and see no point in continuing this process,” Senator Manchin wrote. 

Senator Manchin requested the study – known as a Reconnaissance Survey – with the expectation that if any land in West Virginia was deemed appropriate for National Park Service designation, the state’s cherished hunting and fishing rights would be respected and protected. Since announcing approval of the Reconnaissance Survey, Senator Manchin wrote that he has become very troubled by comments from National Park Service representatives with regard to whether those rights would be respected. His concerns have been echoed by constituents. 

“As an avid hunter and fisherman, I completely understand (West Virginians’) opposition to the loss of any hunting land or fishing opportunities as part of this proposal,” Senator Manchin wrote. “As I have made clear publicly, and to stress again, I will not support any effort by the Park Service that infringes on these cherished rights.” 

In the letter, Senator Manchin requested that the National Park Service put into writing that hunting, fishing and trapping rights will be completely protected as a part of any consideration for a National Park Service Unit in the Alleghany Highlands of West Virginia, and that the National Park Service may not reserve discretion that would enable a future employee or policy to take these rights away. In addition, Senator Manchin requested assurance that hunting, fishing and trapping regulations, as well as proper habitat management, be administered by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). He requested to see in writing that the stocking of non-native fish like rainbow, brown, and brook trout will continue at the direction of the WVDNR. 

Senator Manchin also asked that the National Park Service ensure that not a single property owner would be forced to sell their land or other property interest in West Virginia as a result of the creation of a new National Park Unit, that proper timber management would continue within the potential park boundaries, and that these lands would not be restricted from the potential development of oil and natural gas by lawful owners of mineral rights, either by the state, or citizens who own mineral rights in the area.

A copy of the letter is attached.