Over 6,000 Acres for Monongahela Ntl. Forest (WV)

White Sulphur Springs, WV, 12/10/2003:The Trust for Public Land closed a land deal that protects 6,812 acres of forestland outside the town of White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The land will be added to the Monongahela National Forest. Working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased the $2,795,000 property from MeadWestvaco, a global manufacturer of packaging, paper and specialty chemicals. TPL immediately transferred the land to the U.S. Forest Service. U.S Sen. Robert Byrd and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall were instrumental in securing the federal funds to protect this critical property.

The property is bordered to the north and east by U.S. Forest Service lands and by Interstate 64 to the south. The addition to the forest will improve access to the Allegheny Trail and will expand opportunities for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, camping, bird watching, and cross-country skiing in the southern portion of the forest. The acquisition will also provide a continuous corridor for wildlife between the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia.

“This would not have been possible without the outstanding cooperation of MeadWestvaco, the clear focus of the Monongahela National Forest, and the substantial support of Senator Byrd and Congressman Rahall. We’re very happy that TPL could help make this land accessible for recreational use,” said Lynda Frost, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

Set among the Allegheny Mountains of central Appalachia and hosting more than three million visitors a year, the Monongahela National Forest provides a wealth of active and passive recreational pursuits. Popular activities include hiking the Cranberry Backcountry, taking in a 360-degree view from Spruce Knob, climbing the legendary Seneca Rocks, or angling for native brook trout. The newly protected land is part of the watershed of the Greenbrier River, one of the longest and most scenic free flowing rivers in the East, and one of six major river systems flowing through the forest.

“MeadWestvaco was pleased to partner with the Trust for Public Land and the Forest Service in making this sale possible,” said Trenor Hypes, manager of MeadWestvaco’s Appalachian Region. “This transaction represents a sensible business decision for the company, a benefit to the environment, and tremendous opportunity for residents of and visitors to West Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest.”

The Trust for Public Land will purchase an additional 361 acres from MeadWestvaco in early 2004. The second property, located in Pocahontas County near Marlinton, is completely surrounded by existing Forest Service land, making it extremely desirable for protection.

“The Forest Service is exceptionally pleased with the opportunity to work with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the nearly 7,000 acre MeadWestvaco property. We feel the property is an excellent fit, adjoining both the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests to the north and east, respectively,” said Clyde N. Thompson, Monongahela National Forest supervisor.

This acquisition builds on the Trust for Public Land’s 20-year history in the Monongahela National Forest, which includes the conservation of more than 60,000 acres of high priority natural, historic, and wilderness lands within the Cheat, Greenbrier, Gauley, and Potomac watersheds. TPL’s past conservation projects in the Monongahela include the acquisition of the Mower Tract on Cheat Mountain, the creation of more than 35 miles of trails from the acquisition of old railway corridors, and the protection of wilderness and backcountry areas through the acquisition of outstanding mineral rights, including 16,000 acres in the Cranberry Backcountry.

The purchase from MeadWestvaco is similar to other major forest protection projects being done by the Trust for Public Land nationwide, including forest conservation in northern New Hampshire, Minnesota and all along the northern tier of states.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 65,000 acres in West Virginia. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.