News | June 1, 2022

SELC launches petition to make Shenandoah Mountain a National Scenic Area

Effort aims to designate part of George Washington National Forest as the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area

On Wednesday, the Southern Environmental Law Center and its partners launched a petition to push for the designation of more than 92,000 acres of Virginia’s George Washington National Forest as the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area. The petition is the latest step in a years-long campaign for permanent protections for this incredible area, which helps make up one of the largest stretches of undeveloped land east of the Mississippi River and has been enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts for generations.

Shenandoah Mountain, which stands to the west of the Shenandoah Valley and is separate from Shenandoah National Park, boasts a network of more than 150 miles of trails, 10 peaks above 4,000 feet, and some of the state’s best trout-fishing streams. Permanently protecting Shenandoah Mountain will ensure that visitors are able to hike, hunt, fish, mountain bike, and enjoy the exceptional landscapes for generations to come.

Protect Shenandoah Mountain.

In March, Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that would protect more than 92,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest by creating the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area. This designation would allow forest visitors to continue to enjoy these incredible lands in Rockingham, Augusta, and Highland Counties as they do today, while prohibiting logging and industrial development, like gas drilling and pipeline construction.

This campaign follows 18 years of collaborative work led by local grassroots groups like Friends of Shenandoah Mountain and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. Through that work, a diverse group of local stakeholders, including conservationists, recreation groups, timber industry representatives, hunters, and anglers came together and agreed that, among other things, Shenandoah Mountain deserves to be protected for generations to come. The U.S. Forest Service agreed, recommending in 2014 that Congress designate a National Scenic Area on Shenandoah Mountain.

The creation of a National Scenic Area also has the support of several local governments and more than 400 local businesses, organizations, and faith groups. You can join them by signing the petition and showing your support for permanent protections of Shenandoah Mountain.

Take action now to protect Shenandoah Mountain for generations to come.

Shenandoah Mountain is recognized as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ and, along with its recreational benefits, creating a National Scenic Area will safeguard critical wildlife habitats for rare and endangered species – some of which live nowhere else on Earth. The designation will also protect critical water sources for Harrisonburg, Staunton, and many other towns and communities downstream. Importantly, the national scenic area will attract added tourism dollars to nearby communities as well.

The Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area would also include four wilderness areas, totaling around 28,000 acres of new wilderness, which would have the highest level of protection public lands can receive. Wilderness Areas are popular among people in the South, and a recent study showed 88% of Southerners surveyed said they support more Wilderness designations.

You can learn more about Shenandoah Mountain and the benefits of a National Scenic Area designation at the newly launched webpage dedicated to this effort.

Get the scoop on a few of SELC’s favorite Shenandoah Mountain hikes.