Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Latest Updates

November 3, 2013

Nature Conservancy celebrates 50 years in W.Va.

MORGANTOWN (AP) — Pretty good deal when you can save the world at $5 an acre.

At least a prehistoric parcel of it.

That’s what WVU ecology professor Charlie Baer and a group of his colleagues did in 1960 when they purchased a 259-acre parcel of Cranesville Swamp, a Preston County wetland formed 15,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.

The above price was the going rate for Preston County property. The idea was to turn the purchase into an outdoor classroom, which they did.

Three years later, in 1963, that same group, plus other kindred spirits, got together and formed a West Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservancy, a watchdog group that buys, then maintains, other properties across the world to preserve ecosystems and geological integrity.

That’s why the goateed Baer, now 94, was settled back in his wheelchair enjoying the proceedings Oct. 25 at the Waterfront Place Hotel.

The conservancy chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary in the Mountain State, and it did so by honoring Baer and a group of others including the late West Virginia lawmaker, Sen. Robert Byrd, as “conservation heroes” for the evening.

Conservancy members and other environmental advocates came out to fill the lobby of the hotel that sits along the banks of the Monongahela River.

Before the river, though, rests a well-used trail used for walking, biking and running that formerly contained railroad tracks.

There’s no reason, said Rodney Bartgis, an environmental scientist who serves as director of the West Virginia chapter, why such commerce and conservation can’t coexist.

Especially in West Virginia, he said, where coal was once king and drilling is making a run because of the Marcellus shale exploration.

Since that first 259-acre purchase, the conservancy has acquired about 120,000 acres in West Virginia, from stretches of the New River Gorge to the Dolly Sods Wilderness area.

“It’s iconic land,” he said.

The new challenge for the conservancy, he said, comes from buying properties in the middle of an energy exploration boom. One family might own the land, he said, while another entity owns the mineral rights.

In the case of Marcellus shale drilling, where natural gas must be extracted from rock for mations thousands of feet below the surface, Bartgis — like everyone else — can only wait and see what the ultimate impact on the ecology will be.

“We ‘re a science-based group,” he said, “and we have to wait for the science to catch up.”

The conservancy is successful, though, he said, because it runs on collaboration.

“We don’t confront people,” he said, “so they don’t run away from us.”

Baer, as he surveyed the lay of the land during the evening at Waterfront Place Hotel, said he knew the chapter would still be around 50 years down the line from its first days in 1963.

“I wasn’t sure I’d be,” he said, chuckling.

Jim Bissett writes for The Dominion Post in Morgantown.

1
Text Only
Latest Updates
  • new water treatment facility Officials break ground on new waste water facility

    Rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm Thursday when ground was broken for a wastewater plant that will double both the treatment capacity and opportunities for economic development in the Claypool Hill and Wardell communities.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Absentee voting lagging

    Absentee balloting is off to a slow start in a closely-watched Southwest Virginia Senate race that will determine which political party controls the General Assembly.  
    Three candidates are vying to succeed former lawmaker Phillip Puckett, who resigned in June. A special election is set for Aug. 19. The candidates are Republican A. Benton “Ben” Chafin Jr. Democrat D.M. “Mike” Hymes and independent Rick A. Mullins.

    July 25, 2014

  • Civil complaint filed against GM alleging defects caused local woman’s death

    The estate of a young Mercer County woman and her unborn child have filed a civil complaint in Mercer County Circuit Court alleging that a defective ignition switch in the woman’s 2005 Chevy Cobalt led to her death as well as the death of her unborn child.
    Keisha Dawn Vest, 26, of Princeton, the wife of Jason Vest, and mother of a (then) 3-year-old son, was driving to Mt. Airy, N.C., on May 2, 2006, when the brakes on her vehicle failed. Mrs. Vest was working in Mt. Airy as an MRI technician. Without brakes, Mrs. Vest lost control of her vehicle and entered an intersection into the path of a tractor-trailer. She died as a result of the injuries she received in the wreck.

    July 25, 2014

  • ‘Overwhelming:’ Area fans supporting Saints trip to West Virginia

    The community response to the New Orleans Saints’ three-week visit to The Greenbrier for training camp can be described best in one word that Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Saints head coach Sean Payton all used Thursday when discussing the team’s first 24-plus hours in the Mountain State.
    “Overwhelming,” they all agreed.

    July 25, 2014

  • Va. to join higher education distance learning agreement

    Virginia higher education officials are working to make it easier for students to take online classes and for universities to offer them.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

    July 24, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • McAuliffe heads West to fundraiser

    July 24, 2014