Home Legislation would protect more than 92K acres of scenic land in Shenandoah Valley
Politics, Virginia

Legislation would protect more than 92K acres of scenic land in Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah National Park
(© Vladimir Grablev – stock.adobe.com)

The Shenandoah Mountain Act is legislation to establish a 92,562-acre scenic area in Rockingham, Augusta and Highland counties.

The Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area encompasses four Wilderness areas: Skidmore Fork, Little River, Ramsey’s Draft and Lynn Hollow, which in sum include 10 peaks above 4,000 feet and 150 miles of trails to attract campers, hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, birders and equestrians. The legislation also establishes a 5,779-acre wilderness area at Beech Lick Knob, located 10 miles north of the scenic area.

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner of Virginia led the introduction of the legislation yesterday to protect the scenic, historic, recreational and natural resources in the specific areas, while allowing compatible uses such as outdoor recreation activities. The legislation would also boost local economies, protect drinking water sources and preserve endangered wildlife.

“The Shenandoah Mountain area is home to critical watersheds, flourishing wildlife, and some of our Commonwealth’s most beautiful landscapes. Last year, I was so excited to hike Ramsey’s Draft to see the beauty of the area first hand,” Kaine said. “Creating a National Scenic Area would help protect the Mountain and the George Washington National Forest, spur economic growth in the Valley, and help ensure Virginians and visitors can enjoy the region for generations to come.”

The area provides world-class trails, headwaters for the Potomac and James Rivers and watersheds that provide municipal drinking water sources for Harrisonburg, Staunton, and communities farther downstream. Cold mountain streams in the area are a stronghold for native brook trout. The legislation would permanently protect the rivers and streams from industrial development, and help safeguard populations of at-risk species, such as the Cow Knob and Shenandoah Mountain Salamander, that are natural to the area.

“The Shenandoah Mountain area provides so much for the Valley — a thriving tourism attraction, an essential source of drinking water, and a beloved locale for idyllic hiking and fishing,” Warner said. “I’m fighting to establish a Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area to protect the region for the many families, businesses, and species that rely on it.”

The tourism economy in 2021 employed 6,543 people and generated $728.5 million in expenditures in Augusta, Rockingham, Bath and Highland counties, as well as Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro. JMU scientists estimate that lands within the scenic area proposal already generate $13.7 million per year in other local benefits, including the value of the water supply and energy savings.

In addition to Staunton, Augusta, Rockingham, and Harrisonburg local governments, more than 400 businesses and organizations have endorsed the national designation.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.