The forest comprises about 24 percent of the land in Rockingham County and provides drinking water to 52,635 residents in Rockingham, Harrisonburg, Bridgewater and Broadway. 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 Rockingham, 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. The key water resources on the GWNF in Rockingham County are a reservoir, Switzer Lake, and the North River and North Fork of the Shenandoah River drainages. These resources, whose watersheds are in whole or in part on the GWNF, provide the sole source of water for Harrisonburg and Broadway and are important sources for Rockingham County and Bridgewater. Other water resources in the GWNF in Rockingham County include Blue Hole, Sand Spring, Hone Run Quarry, Slate Springs, Union Springs, Maple Springs and Hall Springs. There are 135 miles of trout streams in the GW National Forest in Rockingham 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 38,438 acres of roadless areas in the GWNF in Rockingham County, including Gum Run, Oak Knob, Southern Massanutten, Skidmore, Little River and Dry River.
- Emphasize backcountry recreation such as hiking, camping, bird-watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. There are two developed recreation sites in the GWNF in Rockingham County (Blue Hole and Hone Quarry), one area of special historic interest (High Knob Tower), and 73 miles of hiking and/or riding trails. Other recreational sites include: High Knob Lookout, Slate Lick Fields wildlife viewing area, Victim Ridge scenic rock formations and Hog Pen Lake. The Great Eastern Trail Corridor, a multi-use trail for hikers, cyclists and horses from New York to Florida, will also pass through the GWNF in Rockingham County.
- Fully protect all areas recommended by the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage for designation as Special Biological Areas. Areas of special biological interest in the GWNF in Rockingham County include the Shenandoah Mountain Crest (31,927 acres), and portions of the Little River Special Management Area and Little Laurel Research Natural Area.
- 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. Candidates for wilderness designation in the GWNF in Rockingham County include Beech Lick Knob and Skidmore Fork. Southern Massanutten Mountain is a proposed National Scenic 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. In the GWNF in Rockingham County including Beech Lick Knob, Kritchie Knob and Hogpen Mountain.