Senator Tim Kaine introduced a bill last week, the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act of 2017, co-sponsored by Senator Mark Warner, that would protect an additional 5,600 acres of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
The bill would expand two existing Wilderness areas, the Rich Hole and Rough Mountain Wilderness areas, located in southeastern Bath County. These lands are already part of the national forest and adding to the designated Wilderness areas will better protect and connect this rugged, scenic area.
“SELC commends Senator Kaine for introducing this bill, an important step forward after years of local stakeholder efforts to find common ground in our vision for this national forest,” said Virginia Office Director Sarah Francisco. “We urge Congress to act quickly on this legislation.”
Wilderness designation is the strongest form of protection for any federal public lands. The Wilderness additions were recommended by the U.S. Forest Service in its 2014 management plan for the George Washington National Forest, following an extensive public process and input from an independent stakeholder group. The George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, in which SELC participated, brought together representatives from a wide range of interests. The group continues to work together with the Forest Service and others towards a balanced approach to George Washington National Forest management, restoration, and protection.