Capito, Manchin ensure New River Gorge legislation included in year-end package

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVNS) — On Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) issued statements ensuring the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act would be prioritized within the year-end legislative package.

The legislation would help grow the outdoor recreation industry on the New River. The act will maintain hunting and fishing within the preserve area while specifically protecting hunting, fishing, and trapping on privately owned land.

“The New River Gorge is truly one of West Virginia’s most treasured playgrounds and largest tourist attractions because of its whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and natural beauty. This designation will increase its international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources. Over the last two years we have met with outdoorsmen, businesses and local leaders and other interested groups to ensure this designation will promote the beauty and rich history of the New River Gorge, while ensuring that the longstanding traditions of hunting and fishing are protected for generations to come,” said Manchin.

Initial success came to the New River Gorge region in 1978 when the federal government designated the New River as a “national river”. The passing of this legislation would make the New River Gorge site just the 63rd National Park and twentieth National Preserve in the United States.

“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state. I am thrilled legislation designating the National River as a National Park and Preserve is included in this legislative package. Redesignation of the National River to a National Park and Preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer, and provide another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses. I’m grateful to all of the West Virginians—sportsmen, business owners, and constituents—for their feedback and involvement during this entire process,” Senator Capito said.

Since being originally introduced in 2019, the legislation has been changed based on local feedback. The legislation would include the following:

  • Create a 65,165 acre Preserve and a 7,021-acre Park.
  • Open up 368 acres to hunting in Grandview for the first time ever.
  • Authorize the National Park System (NPS) to bid on additional land for the Preserve that amounts to 3,711 acres.
  • Authorizes the NPS to acquire up to 100 acres for parking only, which is needed as the area has seen an increase in visitors.
  • Keeps open 301 acres of the Lower Gorge following the requests of local hunters.

In the NPS system, there are only six combination national parks and preserves, all in Alaska. The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act would designate between 5,000 and 6,000 acres of the 72,808-acre tract of federal land as a national park component.

Dave Arnold, a board member of the NRGRDA and founding partner of Adventures on the Gorge said that the leadership of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority was important when gaining support on local and state levels. Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers counties, plus nearby Mercer County was instrumental in building local, state and federal support for the national park and preserve designation.

Congress will be voting soon on the year-end package, which includes several other benefits for West Virginians.

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