Manchin, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Discuss Challenges Facing Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

March 14, 2019

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, welcomed witnesses from the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Juneau Economic Development Council Visitor Products Working Group, Idaho Recreation Authority and American Whitewater to discuss opportunities to improve access, infrastructure and permitting for outdoor recreation. 

Senator Manchin questioned Mr. Jeffrey Lusk, Executive Director of the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority about how the success of the Hatfield McCoy trail system could be applicable to the Bureau of Land Management systems across the United States. 

“Understanding the challenges you might have had, Jeff, could you explain a little bit about the successes you’ve had with Hatfield McCoy, how it came into fruition, how it took private-public partnerships, where we’re at now and plans to expand it? Do you have the same challenges working with private land owners as the federal lands on BLM? Can you explain the differences and challenges there?” Ranking Member Manchin asked.

“We work with over 90 coal, timber and natural gas companies who provide us access to over 250,000 acres of their private property. These companies primarily hold the property for natural resources extraction. We actually put a public recreation area in amongst this natural resources extraction. For no monetary consideration, they allow us to use the property. We provide policing, indemnity, we are stewards of the property and we manage this activity. This has created a catalyst for economic development in southern West Virginia,” Mr. Lusk said.  

Senator Manchin also asked each witness about the impacts a changing climate are having on outdoor recreation opportunities around the country. 

“Summer rafting seasons – a lot of places throughout the west and across the country, when the snow is melting that’s the fuel for the recreational economy around whitewater rafting. If that snowpack is not there it has a direct economic impact on local communities that depend on that,” said Dr. Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director at American Whitewater.

“If you’re a hunter or an angler you’re seeing the impacts everywhere you look. Minnesota doesn’t have a moose season anymore because they’re losing all their moose because they’re dying of tick infestations because it’s not getting cold enough to kill the ticks. Waterfowl migrations are on average about two weeks later now than they used to be.  Elk aren’t coming out of the mountains during the hunting season sometimes because it’s not getting cold enough to push them down,” said Mr. Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO at Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.“You can’t ignore this stuff. If we really invest in our public lands that helps in part to solve this problem.” 

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.