People who fish and hunt at Wayne County's East Lynn Lake must feel as if they've done something wrong.
In early March, a tornado blew through, uprooting and damaging more than 3,000 acres of trees near the lake. Now the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has officially set guidelines for coal operators that hope to mine the thick coal seam that surrounds the impoundment.
Two companies have applied to deep-mine more than 13,000 acres of the 22,928-acre East Lynn Wildlife Management Area.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land and leases it to the state Division of Natural Resources for recreational use. Sportsmen - especially anglers and boaters - are concerned about mining's potential effects on the lake's water quality.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees coal mining on federal lands. Last week, BLM officials set the boundaries coal operators would have to observe if they wish to mine the area.
First and most important, there would be no mining within 1,585 feet of East Lynn Dam. That makes sense. The dam's structural integrity must be maintained.
The BLM requirements would also include a 200-foot buffer around the lake's perimeter as well as studies of the area's geology and potential risks from mining activity.
Because the East Lynn WMA is located in an area of the state where public land is relatively scarce, it is an extremely popular hunting, fishing and boating spot. It gets heavy recreational use from people in Wayne, Lincoln, Logan, Cabell and Mingo counties.
Paul Johansen, the DNR's assistant wildlife chief, understands why recreational users are concerned, but added that his agency's experience with coal mining on state-leased lands "has been positive."