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The Indiana House passes a controversial bill barring schools from teaching about Critical Race Theory; and President Biden pledges to place a Black woman on the Supreme Court for the first time.

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Mapping Project Uses Data to Guide WV Conservation Efforts

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Monday, December 20, 2021   

Conservation experts in the state are expanding a forest mapping tool to assess the impact of development on thousands of acres of public lands.

Board member with the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Rick Webb explained there are dozens of projects underway or under consideration within the three National Forests in the Central Appalachian Highlands region.

He said most projects involve clear-cutting and road-building, which increase the vulnerability of the forests' ecosystem and watershed.

"We're concerned that any new logging done now, a hundred years after the big cut, be done in a way to preserve these forests," said Webb, "to retain their function, to supply clean, cool water."

The Highlands contain the headwaters of major river systems in the eastern U.S, including the Potomac, James and Cheat rivers.

Webb added that the steep mountain slopes and soil types make the area among the most landslide-prone in the country, which affects water quality and is worthy of special conservation attention.

Dan Schaffer is a CSI Geospatial Consultant with the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance who helped create the mapping tool, based on Geographic Information System technology.

He said he believes the public should be involved in the review process for development projects that could potentially affect the region's diversity of plants and animals.

"It's murky, it's often driven as much by interest as science," said Schaffer. "And for the average person, they're really taken out of that process. We're trying to give them a seat at the table again."

He added the tool offers accessible information on topography and geography, water quality and soil erodibility, along with locations and boundaries of proposed projects for the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia and West Virginia.




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