On Thursday, Jan, 26, representatives from The Wilderness Society, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Virginia W
ilderness Committee and local citizens from Monroe (WV), Giles (VA) and Montgomery (VA) counties trekked their way into the Peters Mountain Wilderness Area and the Jefferson National Forest to the Appalachian Trail (AT) to assess the impacts should the Mountain Valley Pipeline be built in the present proposed corridor.
These 17 individuals observed and documented potential severe impacts to unique land features, such as the total destruction to Mystery Ridge on Peters Mountain, impacts to numerous springs and other water resources found in or near the pipeline path, construction roads and work areas. They also found that the current path would severely impact Appalachian Trail itself as well as to one of its most iconic views, the view across Monroe, Summers, Greenbrier, Mercer and Raleigh counties from “Rice’s Field” near Simms Gap.
While standing on top of Peters Mountain, Andrew Downs, regional director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Central and Southwest Virginia District explained to the group that Mountain Valley had rejected alternatives without adequate analysis of those alternatives where the AT is already impacted by development such as existing roads or utility corridors. He also spoke of the view impacts on Little Mountain and across Monroe County.
Downs, speaking for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), said that Mountain Valley has failed to complete a key analysis of the pipeline’s visual impacts to the users of the AT, which has a huge regional, national and international constituency. The ATC has over 40,000 members in all 50 states and numerous other countries. It is estimated that about three million visitors visit the trail yearly. It is a major part of the tourism industry of the area.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail or AT as it is known by many, was started in 1922 and completed in 1937, and stretches roughly 2,200 miles through 14 states from Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Its presence in the region is frequently cited by economic development organizations as an important lifestyle amenity. The Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain in Monroe and Giles counties is regarded as one of its most treasured visual areas on the AT.
The conservancy encouraged people concerned about the pipeline’s impacts on the trail to share those fears with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Others participating on the Jan. 26 visit to Peters Mountain included Hugh Irwin, Mike Reinemer and Brent Martin of The Wilderness Society, as well as Mark Miller, executive director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. Irwin, who is the landscape conservation planner for The Wilderness Society, said the route threatens profound impacts to what he described as “wilderness values,” including nature not touched by development and the sources of clean water for the area that is protected and sheltered by wilderness areas. He furthermore said that Mountain Valley would be hard pressed to find a more unsuitable route for the pipeline, when taking conservation values in consideration.
Dana Olson, a member of Save Monroe and the Discover Monroe team, adjacent to the Peters Mountain Wilderness and the AT, said that “Peters Mountain is a magical place filled with springs and aquifers. It is the source of water and life for thousands of residents in Monroe County.”
At the end of the four-hour hike, officials from The Wilderness Society went to view the Rich Creek Spring that is the source of Rich Creek and a secondary water source for the Red Sulphur Public Service District. They commented that this was a an alarming example of what could be extremely affected or contaminated by the current MVP route. Brent Martin, southern Appalachian regional director for The Wilderness Society, said it was one of the most incredible springs he had ever seen.
Later they attended a public meeting with local citizens to hear their concerns. They stated that The Wilderness Society shares their concerns and were committed to protect the wilderness, the Jefferson National Forest and the AT in the area. The meeting was well attended by citizens from Monroe and Summers counties and representatives from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
You can watch a video from the trip on YouTube to be released soon. The video title will be “The Wilderness Society Explores Impacts to the Appalachian Trail – Discover Monroe Episode 9.”