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Manchin Non-Committal On Trump Public Lands Agenda

The outdoor recreation industry says public lands are key to West Virginia's economic future.(Birthplace of Rivers/Sam Taylor)
The outdoor recreation industry says public lands are key to West Virginia's economic future.
(Birthplace of Rivers/Sam Taylor)
March 22, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – With the Trump administration shrinking national monuments out West, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., remains evasive about the public lands some say could be key to West Virginia's future.

The U.S. Interior Department announced late last year that it is shrinking two Utah national monuments, as critics charge the reason is to make way for uranium mining.

Manchin's office did not answer a written question about the issue.

Up for reelection in the fall, Manchin has argued in favor of safeguarding federal lands from development in the past. But at a recent town hall, the senator criticized a state-level plan by the governor to log state parks by describing his discussions with timber companies.

"I haven't had anybody call me and say, 'Joe, we've go to get on the state property or we're not going to be able to stay in business,'" Manchin said. "So, I can basically relate to what I'm hearing. I haven't heard that."

According to a report from the outdoor industry, recreation brings 90,000 jobs and billions in economic activity to West Virginia. That industry argues those numbers could rise with more public lands.

Nearly 90 percent of West Virginians favor keeping national monuments protected. But expanding federal lands in West Virginia remains controversial for some, with conservative critics describing it as a "federal land grab" that corrodes the local tax base.

For people such as Thomas, W. Va., business owner John Bright, public lands will be key for the state going forward.

"It's what's going to drive the future economy of West Virginia," Bright insists. "It's the public spaces that make this state very attractive for people that are going to tire of the urban environment."

Manchin is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining.

The office of the centrist Democrat did given written statements on two less controversial public-lands issues. In one, he committed to fight for the budget of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was slashed in a White House spending plan.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV