When news came down that a chunk of West Virginia's mountain highlands might be considered for national park status, reactions ranged from giddy delight to horrified anguish.
The story broke Tuesday, when the Gazette's Paul Nyden revealed that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., had sanctioned a National Park Service suitability study. According to pro-park activist Judy Rodd, who was quoted in Nyden's story, the park would encompass much of the northern part of the Monongahela National Forest as well as Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley state parks.
Environmental advocates are tickled pink because they see national park status as a means to an end - timbering, gas drilling and other resource-based uses of the northern Mon Forest could come to a screeching halt.
Many sportsmen are horrified because they view national park status as a possible end to hunting, trout stockings, trapping, ramp digging, morel hunting and ginseng digging within the proposed park's boundaries.
I pointed out some of the potential pitfalls in my Wednesday Woods and Waters blog post. Within hours, I received responses from Rodd and Manchin clarifying their positions on the issues of hunting and fishing.
"Hunting would be allowed in the proposed High Allegheny Park and Preserve and in fact would be encouraged. Fishing would also be a main attraction," Rodd wrote.
Note the language Rodd used. "Park and Preserve" is a special designation that allows hunting within park borders. Examples include Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska and Big Cypress in Florida.
When Manchin's press secretary, Marni Goldberg, contacted me, she also referred to the proposed park as a preserve. She insisted that Manchin would never do anything that would ban hunting, and she e-mailed me a formal statement from the senator to that effect: