Echo Along Cheat is Conservation

Purchase of canyon property by groups will serve the public and wildlife for years

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
15 April 2104

Next time someone says, “If you believe that, then I have a canyon to sell you,” listen up. Unlike the many unsuspecting dupes who have bought the Brooklyn Bridge — though it’s never been for sale — apparently a 7-mile stretch of the Cheat Canyon was on the market for nearly 40 years. That all changed late last week when two conservation groups paid $7 million for 3,800 acres of property stretching along the canyon from the outskirts of Albright to a segment of Sandy Creek. But if all goes according to plan, this property will never be on the market again. The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy plan to transfer the property to the state Division of Natural Resources (DNR) in the next two years for establishment of a wildlife management area. That new wildlife management area will also include a nature preserve, managed by the DNR, but owned by the Nature Conservancy. We’ve all grown accustomed to being told how some whopper-size real estate deals in recent decades by developers, WVU and major retailers will benefit the public. Many of us are usually a little skeptical of such claims. However, the transfer of this property overlooking the Cheat River to the DNR will truly benefit the public. Not to mention the flora and fauna that inhabit these 3,800 acres. This property transaction and transfer to the DNR will also essentially conserve most of the Cheat Canyon, not already in Coopers Rock State Forest and the Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area. We applaud these conservation groups for their diligence and willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of generations of West Virginians to come. Wild and wonderful West Virginia is much more than a catchy slogan that we sell to out-of-state tourists. Truth is, it’s also more than a defining label on a license plate. Wild and wonderful is the great outdoors: The Cheat River, a whitewater magnet, the craggy rock faces that beckon climbers and the vast forest. It’s also the rare and common species of wildlife in these rivers, these rocks and these trees throughout this canyon and in our state. One of the conservationists who oversaw this property deal said, “Being able to acquire 7 miles of river in the eastern U.S. is becoming the kind of thing that’s unheard of.” He’s right. Projects like this will never be commonplace, but then the Cheat Canyon isn’t commonplace, either. But such efforts will always be essential to all of us for far more than just keeping up our image.