Sustainability is critical when considering travel in a region like the Appalachian Highlands of West Virginia. This state relies equally on its tourism and energy industries. We will be leaving in just a couple of weeks for our final camping trip of the year. Camping in these mountains are a part of my life.
I grew up in the foothills, not more than an hour away. This is a magical place with sweeping vistas, clear streams, abundant fishing and some of the most gorgeous trails you can imagine. It is important to me that this area is preserved.
Looking from the air as we fly over, it is hard to believe that the hills were completed denuded of trees back in the 1920’s. the age old virgin forests of might oaks, walnuts and other hard woods were lost. These newer forests are mostly softwoods but truly beautiful. The logging roads, remnants from that sadder time provide excellent mountain biking now. But there are also the rail trails and the swathes of power lines that cross the hilltops.
West Virginia is known for its coal fields and accidents. But natural gas is a huge resource as well. Now there are also debates between expanding drilling and its impact on the environment and the growth of wind energy. I hope this debate leads to compromises that allow for responsible management of both the environment and the preservation of the resources.
It takes only a short drive along the interstates to see just how much is at stake for both sides. The energy companies are sparing no expense in billboards alone to remind West Virginians that they need their support to prosper. I am not weighing in on this debate. My family has lived in this region since the 1770’s. I know first hand how difficult it is to eek out a living in these rugged hills. I also know the joy of watching my children grow up surrounded by friends and family and nature.
What I can do is my small part in seeing that my visits home are as a responsible citizen. Therefor I am contributing $5 of every one of the registrations for the bike tour to the WV Wildlife Coalition. This coalition is working to see that both sides of the debate are heard. It does take a lot of money to compete with the energy groups.
The coalition will not prevent the companies from drilling, and I really do not believe that is their intent. what they can do, and I applaud, is to educate property owners about the risks, add a not so gentle nudge to legislators that they need to see that regulations are in place to ensure the safety and well being of the environment and the citizens, and that procedures are followed.
My sincere hope from this debate is that these marvelous natural wonders will be around for future generations of my family and friends and that these same generations will prosper in the land that they love.
Giving back is only one tenet of sustainable travel. If you would like to know more steps that you can take to be a responsible traveler when visiting regions and cities, please sign up for my newsletter. I will send you the tips that can make you a responsible traveler.
And let me know where you stand on the issue of the environment and energy. Comment below and share your thoughts.