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12th annual Southern West Virginia Spring Eagle Survey and Winter Birding Weekend March 01-03, 2019

The Free Press WV

Eagles, birds of prey and winter bird watching are the focus of the 12th annual Spring Eagle Survey of the Bluestone/Pipestem area and Winter Birding Weekend March 01-03 at Pipestem Resort State Park. Registration is requested before February 28.

“The January survey recorded 58 eagle sightings during the four-hour survey period,” said Julie McQuade, naturalist at Pipestem Resort State Park. “The March survey could also result in a high number with volunteers scattered throughout the area monitoring eagle sightings and nests.”

The weekend includes additional programs. “Birding 101: Be Better at Bird Watching” is at 7 p.m. in the Cardinal Room at Pipestem’s McKeever Lodge. Instruction will be provided on how to use binoculars and tips and tricks to bird identification, field marking and field guide use. Discussion about the Saturday eagle survey, how it is organized and history of the surveys rounds out the evening.

The Eagle Survey begins Saturday at 10 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. Participants will gather at 9:15 a.m. and transportation will be provided to the survey site at The Pit Area of Bluestone Lake. The four-hour survey pairs professional birders with novice or beginning bird watchers and assigns them to survey observation sites to look for golden and bald eagles.

“This has become a special event in the Pipestem area and over the years we have recognized an increase in golden and bald eagle nests and sightings. We watch the skies snow, rain or shine,” said McQuade.

McQuade and others, including Jim Phillips, former Pipestem naturalist, organize the survey teams and leaders. Multiple sites are determined based on the number of people who confirm participation. Everyone is contacted in advance with instructions and the survey locations. When the survey concludes at 2 p.m., all teams meet in Hinton to compare and compile notes.

Saturday evening’s program is “Wings of Wonder – Birds of Prey” with Three Rivers Avian Center at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Staff will talk about the habitat, diet and behavior of each bird presented, the most common causes of injury to each species and the laws protecting them.

Special guests from the Bibbee Nature Club and from Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory Tower will be on hand during the Live Birds of Prey program to answer questions about migratory birds, birds of southern West Virginia, getting involved in Bibbee Nature Club hikes and activities, as well as how to find Hanging Rock Observatory and the best time to visit.

Sunday at 8:15 a.m., a winter bird walk with McQuade completes the birding weekend.

Advocates of multi-county mountain biking trail eye tourism boom

The Free Press WV

The bill considered a massive opportunity to increase local tourism for North Central West Virginia is slowly taking shape.

After the recent passing of two bills in the House of Delegates and the State Senate, the Mountaineer Trail Network is gaining more ground in turning concept into reality.

“It truly is an economic project,” said trail advocate Jason Donahue on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town” With Dave Wilson and Sarah Giosi.

Donahue, founder of FEOH Realty, said the way to increase tourism in the region is actually quite simple.

“If you want to increase tourism, you need to increase the things that you offer an outsider to do,” he said. “You need to have more things. We need to have more reasons for people to come here.”

If the system is fully achieved, there’s belief from legislators and advocates for the project that tourism could boom in the region — thanks to the trail that would exist in parts of Marion and Harrison counties.

“It truly is an economic project,” he said. “That’s the goal — it’s to bring people from out of town into our community and give them a good experience.”

The bill passed in the House, allows for the formation of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority, which will allow Donahue and other members of the board to begin negotiating for funds in order to make the trail fully realized. The Senate also passed a bill which allows for three or more adjacent counties to form a multicounty trail network authority. With both bills complimenting each other, it allows for Donahue and other representatives to present a funding plan to the five counties that would be involved.

“The sum of the parts is greater than the individual contribution so that it’s not something that is too much for each individual governent entity,” Donahue said.

Local, state, and federal funds are all part of his vision.

“You put together a package that funds it to get through the construction phase,” he said.

Along with Marion and Harrison counties, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor will all be part of the Mountaineer Trail Network Authority.

One of the key selling points on the Mountaineer Trail Network is the opportunity all participating counties get in recieving tourism dollars, Donahue said. Those who travel for moutain biking excursions usually spend about two to three days per trip and spend approximately $400 in the process, including hotel and food expenses. Donahue, who previously was involved in the development of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in southern West Virginia, feels that mountain biking has a solid economic base.

“If we have several thousand, and I think the Hatfield-McCoy trail averages about 40,000 to 50,000 visitors per year, so if we can get to that, which I think we could far exceed for the simple reason that there are more mountain bikes than ATV’s,” he said.

Another selling point Donahue noted: the profit potential for the project. In particular, Donahue is excited by how realatively inexpensive it would cost for the Mountaineer Trail Network to become a reality.

“The cost to do it should be in the realm of possible and what you do is that you don’t do it all in one time,” he said. “So it might take 15 years to make 1,500 miles, it might take 10 years to build 150 miles but you do it as economically and efficiently as you possibly can.”

One major boon already: Donahue said many of the structural challenges that face southern West Virginia — a lack of diversity in hotel choices and adjacent businesses — don’t exist in the Morgantown area.

“We don’t have that problem here,” he said. “Up and down I-79, we literally have clusters of hundreds of hotels together with businesses immediately adjacent to it. It would be an ideal situation for people to come in, ride right where the hotel is, and then walk to where they can have dinner or a beer.”

~~  Joe Nelson ~~

Consequence of the Shutdown: Poop Problems

The Free Press WV

When the government shut down on Dec. 22, Yosemite National Park remained open but its bathrooms did not. Tourists haven’t stopped relieving themselves, apparently alongside the road, reports the Los Angeles Times. Now, two campgrounds, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and Hetch Hetchy have been shut down over health concerns stemming from the human urine and feces that’s been deposited along Wawona Road in the park’s south.

“Some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,“ says a National Parks Service rep. Tourists are being asked to use restrooms outside the park before they arrive, and KFSN reports travelers who haven’t already locked in reservations are being advised to plan a single-day trip. A separate LAT article looks at the situation at Joshua Tree National Park, where the waterless toilets aren’t being maintained, leaving some volunteers to try to stock them with toilet paper. One such volunteer doled out 500 rolls in roughly five days.

Land in 7 WV counties acquired for wildlife management efforts

The Free Press WV

A nonprofit has bought nearly 19,000 acres of forest land in seven West Virginia counties aimed at increasing public access for hunting and wildlife-associated recreation.

The Arlington, Virginia-based Conservation Fund announced the land purchase Thursday.

A statement by the organization says the land was bought at the request of the state Division of Natural Resources and will eventually be transferred to the state as funding becomes available. The plan is to create five new wildlife management areas and expand four others along with North Bend State Park.

The land is in Calhoun, Doddridge, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Wirt and Wood counties. The land features habitat for a variety of endangered and threatened bird, bat and mussel species.

The DNR also recently acquired 12,440 acres in four counties for preservation efforts.

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