FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va (WOAY) – On Wednesday, members of the community were invited to attend a discussion with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito along with Congresswoman Carol Miller. The topic of discussion was the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Act that would change the designation of the New River Gorge National River to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
It was a full house inside the Canyon Rim Visitors Center Auditorium as Senator Manchin, Senator Capito and Congresswoman Miller, along with park affiliates fielded questions and concerns from the audience many of which revolved around hunting.
According to the Members of Congress, the preserve title allows for the continuation of hunting, trapping and fishing on private lands with the exception of some areas. Senator Manchin says if it was just a national park, hunting would be completely prohibited.
“And we knew that would not be accepted in West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “Being a hunter myself and being a fisherman, I wouldn’t have accepted that, So with that, we came to working it out and working a bill that basically blended. The preserve is basically you’re preserving the culture and history and traditions. That’s what we’re preserving.”
With the 7,691 acres that could possibly become a National Park and Preserve potentially leading to a tourism boom, many raised concerns about recreational activities, staffing, upkeep, fishing and the proposed estimated 4,300 acres of hunting space that would be restricted. This includes Thurmond, Grandview, Sandstone Falls and now an area from Nuttallburg up to the dam that will be more restricted. Cully McCurdy who works as a district wildlife biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation in West Virginia was one of the people who spoke.
“We just wanted to see if there was the potential to address that and see if maybe the boundaries could be tweaked to where those lands that have been hunted for generations could still be available to sportsmen,” McCurdy The second concern was that you know, this meeting was very, very well-attended considering the short notice, and I would just like to see the potential for public input maybe after work hours for those who couldn’t fit their schedule.”
All three Members of Congress did say they will take what they learned today and have more meetings, but the goal is to get this act pushed in this congressional session.
“You’re always going to have negative and positive and you have to weight it and listen, but I think the positive, shown in that room, far was outweighing folks that were concerned, and I think that their concern was that they weren’t being listened to enough and maybe we alleviated some of that,” Senator Capito said.
Congresswoman Miller says she will make sure the bill she moves through the House will have the exact same wording as the one Senators Capito and Manchin bring to the Senate.