From the Conservation Trust for North Carolina:
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an American icon – the most popular unit of the National Park Service and an economic boon to western Virginia and North Carolina – and deserves funding from the federal government to maintain its beauty and viability, CTNC’s executive director told a U.S. House subcommittee on Thursday, Feb. 25.
Reid Wilson testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, urging its support for the Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act.
The Act (HR4524) would authorize $75 million over five years to protect land along the Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia. CTNC urged creation of the legislation, filed in honor of the Parkway’s 75th anniversary this year by House sponsors Heath Shuler and David Price of North Carolina, and Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello of Virginia. The Senate version (S2951) is sponsored by North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, and Virginia’s Jim Webb and Mark Warner.
CTNC has protected more than 30,000 acres of streams, forests, working farms, parkland and watersheds along the Parkway in North Carolina.
“The Parkway is a national treasure,” Wilson told the subcommittee. “Its 469 miles of spectacular vistas, mature forests, pristine streams and hiking trails attract nearly 20 million visitors per year to North Carolina and Virginia.
“Yet the Parkway is an extremely fragile ribbon, and its scenic, cultural, and natural integrity are threatened by development. In most places, the Parkway’s land corridor is only 800 feet wide, and most of the property that makes up its views is privately owned, vulnerable to development at a moment’s notice.”
Wilson cited five reasons why it’s critically important right now to expand funding for land conservation along the Blue Ridge Parkway:
1. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited unit of the National Park Service, but its most popular features – its beautiful views, hiking trails, forests and streams – are under constant threat of encroaching development.
2. The Parkway is the economic lifeblood of nearby mountain communities, bring more than $2 billion per year to the regions of North Carolina and Virginia through which it passes. Businesses near the Parkway already know how it hurts when a section is closed due to weather or road damage; imagine the impact if the Parkway’s attractions are permanently marred.
3. The Parkway is an incredible natural resource with rich and diverse wildlife habitat. Its landscape contains 43 species of amphibians, over 1600 species of plants, and nine federally listed threatened or endangered species. It also is home to the headwaters of 15 watersheds and contains 600 miles of pristine streams.
4. Right now is an outstanding time to buy land along the Parkway. State funding has dwindled even as more land comes on the market at lower prices due to the recession. Once the economy rebounds, development in the region will return to the furious pace it kept in previous years.
5. The Parkway will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010. Passage of the Act would be a fitting way to honor this hugely popular landmark, which was born of an economic crisis much like the one we’re in today and has since proved to be an inarguably successful investment of public funds.
Wilson asked the committee to pass the legislation and work with the House Appropriations Committee to secure funding in the 2010-11 federal budget and beyond to protect the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“We all share a sense of responsibility to pass on to future generations clean rivers and streams, abundant wildlife habitat, ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and a sound economy – in short, a high quality of life,” he said. “The Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act would help achieve all of those goals for those who come after us.”
|Shop online at the Blue Ridge Parkway Bookstore.
With a wide selection of guidebooks, apparel and souvenirs, its easier than ever to support your favorite national park!