In 2010, President Barack Obama began the America's Great Outdoors Initiative.
Throughout 2011, officials from various federal agencies joined forces to engage the public in a dialog about what people expect from the nation's great outdoors. As a result of public opinion, a four-part vision to give direction to public lands was developed.
Once the vision was formed, the secretary of the interior went back to legislators and participants from each state and asked for recommendations for two projects per state that would further this initiative. With the public's help and support the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was selected for partnership efforts to restore landscapes. The AGO 50 State Report mentions the Central Appalachian forest and the cool headwater streams as two things worthy of inclusion in this initiative. These are related since the shade from the forest is what keeps the streams cool, supporting our native brook trout, and providing clean water to larger rivers and cities downstream.
The other project selected for West Virginia is a youth initiative in the New River Gorge area.
The four-part vision included:
1. There is a need for places where people can connect with nature close to where they live and work. Therefore this initiative will nurture public parks in urban and populated areas.
2. The public supports efforts to conserve large rural landscapes and the plant and animal communities that those landscapes support. Therefore this initiative will continue efforts to conserve large tracts of various plant and animal communities where they exist.
3. Government agencies should work in partnership with others on conservation issues. Therefore agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will continue to build partnership relationships in communities, with those whose views are similar and with those who build the economies of communities adjacent to public lands.
4. It is important to engaging youth in the outdoors. Therefore USFWS and other agencies will continue to organize experiences for youth of diverse backgrounds to connect to America's great outdoors where they live, and will build opportunities for them to develop environmental careers helping in each of vision areas given above.
The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge has been working in partnership with others to restore the red spruce ecosystem of the West Virginia highlands. Tree planting days are sponsored here in the spring and in the fall. Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the WV Highlands Conservancy.
A collaborative called the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative has formed. Groups from many local colleges, including West Virginia University, as well and Boy Scouts of America, other youth groups and many individuals join this effort by participating in the tree planting days.
Red spruce was an important component of the ecosystem prior to the logging of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Following the logging, fires burned out much of the topsoil in the area, making it harder for the forest to quickly regenerate. Spruce has come up on many area ridge tops, but the spruce forest is much less abundant than it was formerly and pockets of red spruce forest are disconnected from other red spruce pockets, isolating populations of animals.
Two species that are dependent on red spruce habitat are of particular concern on the Refuge and in the Monongahela National Forest. They are the endangered West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander. With the tree planting effort, local officials are working to return spruce to some of its original range and to connect isolated stands.
The staff and friends of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge thank the community for its support.