The forest comprises more than 13 percent of the land in Page County. Forest Service officials are currently rewriting the forest management plan, which will guide forest uses for the next 15 years. The GWNF Management Plan represents the second largest guide to land use in Page, after our own county Comprehensive Plan.
The GWNF harbors many natural and cultural resources often not available or protected on private lands, including clean water for fishing and drinking, wildlife habitat for game and non-game species, maturing native forests, backcountry recreation, scenic views and much more. In fact, the original lands for the GWNF were acquired primarily to restore and maintain healthy watersheds.
In the past, the U.S. Forest Service has focused on logging and road building more than on other conservation values. Area residents increasingly place greater emphasis on preserving our public lands for outdoor activities, such as nature tourism and wilderness recreation, and to protect important natural resources, such as water quality, wilderness and rare plant and animal communities.
The Shenandoah Valley Network joins Virginia Forest Watch, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Wild Virginia, Heartwood, Sierra Club, Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Wildlaw in endorsing the following principles for a common-sense approach to protecting our national forest.
- Ensure that all watersheds, sources of clean water and native brook trout streams are fully protected. Key water resources in Page County whose watersheds are on the GWNF in whole or in part include the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and Yager Spring. Numerous streams and rivers run through the GWNF, including the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, Cub Run, Morgan Run, Roaring Run, Browns Run, Pitt Springs Run, Big Run and Passage Creek. There are 19.8 miles of trout streams in the GWNF in Page County.
- Fully protect all “inventoried” roadless areas, as petitioned by the Governor of Virginia. Identify and fully protect all other remaining roadless tracts. There are 5,328 acres of roadless areas in the GWNF in Page County, including Northern Massanutten and Southern Massanutten.
- Emphasize backcountry recreation such as hiking, camping, bird-watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. There are four developed recreation sites in the GWNF in Page County, including High Cliff Canoe Camp, Batzell, DS Compton Warren and Moody Landing, 13 areas of special historic or other interest, including Catherine Furnace, Massanutten Trail, Lion’s Tale Trail, Waterfall Mountain Cliff Site, Hebron Gap and Kennedy’s Peak. There are 50 miles of hiking and/or riding trails on the GWNF in Page County.
- Fully protect all areas recommended by the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage for designation as Special Biological Areas. There are two of these areas of special biological interest totaling 1,138 acres, on the GWNF in Page County: Brown’s Hollow and Scothorn Gap.
- Fully protect all rare, threatened and endangered species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage.
- Identify and recommend all areas that qualify for Wilderness Study Area and Wild and Scenic River designation. A candidate for wilderness designation on the GWNF in Page County is the Southern Massanutten Roadless Area.
- Fully protect all areas identified in “Virginia’s Mountain Treasures: The Unprotected Wildlands of the George Washington National Forest.” These areas provide the last, best places for outstanding recreation in the backcountry, and intact habitat for migratory songbirds, black bear and other wildlife. On the GWNF in Page County Catback Mountain and Short Horse Mountain are identified as Mountain Treasures.