Almost as soon as it began, the federal government's exploration into a possible national park and preserve for West Virginia's Allegheny Highlands appears to be over.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin dealt the initiative a potentially fatal blow recently when he withdrew his support of the National Park Service's "reconnaissance survey" into West Virginia's suitability for a park.
Manchin apparently didn't get the right answers from Park Service superintendent Jon Jarvis. Manchin's Feb. 2 letter asked Jarvis to address how hunting, fishing and other outdoor and resource-related activities might be affected if 750,000 acres in and around northern Monongahela National Forest were to be placed under Park Service jurisdiction.
Jarvis' reply to Manchin was predictably vague. Here's the juiciest part:
"You requested that the National Park Service make specific decisions about how the lands would be managed within this potential unit of the National Park System in West Virginia.
Such details are beyond the scope of a limited reconnaissance survey; however, under National Park Service management policies, the continuation of extractive activities such as timber harvesting and oil and gas development would make the establishment of a national park infeasible."
Notice that Jarvis focused on timbering and gas drilling. Manchin's questions had mainly dealt with hunting and fishing.
Sen. Manchin didn't appreciate Jarvis' seeming reluctance to address sportsmen's concerns. In a March 9 reply to Jarvis, he pulled the plug on the project:
"It has become clear from your response to these concerns that including these lands in the National Park system is not the best way to protect these resources while also protecting important West Virginia pastimes and cultural activities. Therefore, I must respectfully request that you end this Reconnaissance Survey."