The forest comprises 24 percent of the land in Shenandoah County and provides drinking water to 8,452 residents in Strasburg and Woodstock. 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 Shenandoah, 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 Shenandoah County water resources whose watersheds are on the GWNF in whole or part include the Woodstock reservoir, Passage Creek and the intakes on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River that serve Strasburg and Woodstock. There are 31.8 miles of trout streams in the GWNF in Shenandoah 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 17,233 acres of roadless areas in the GWNF in Shenandoah County, including Big Schloss and Northern Massanutten.
- Emphasize backcountry recreation such as hiking, camping, bird-watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. There are seven developed recreation sites in the GWNF in Shenandoah County, five areas of special historic interest, including Signal Knob and Elizabeth Furnace, and 178 miles of hiking and/or riding trails. 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 Shenandoah County, on Church Mountain and Shenandoah Mountain.
- Fully protect all areas recommended by the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage for designation as Special Biological Areas. There are six of these areas, a total of 1,311 acres, of special biological interest in the GWNF in Shenandoah County; Peter’s Mill Run Bog, Mud Hole Bog, Edinburg Gap Shale Barren, Vance’s Cover, Salus Spring and part of Signal Knob Barren.
- Fully protect all rare, threatened and endangered species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage. One federally listed species, the peregrine falcon, has been reintroduced and established several nesting sites in the GWNF in Shenandoah County. Species in the forest listed by the state for protection include the wood turtle, barrens tiger beetle, showy ladyslipper, great Indian plantain, two-spotted skipper, tall thistle and the blunt-lobe grape fern.
- Identify and recommend all areas that qualify for Wilderness Study Area and Wild and Scenic River designation. Two good candidates for wilderness designation in the GWNF in Shenandoah County are Three High Heads, which includes the ridgeline of Paddy Mountain, and Little Stoney, which contains the upper drainage of Little Stoney Creek. Both lie within the Big Schloss Roadless Area. The current U.S. Forest Service map of Wilderness Study Areas shows no candidates in the national forest in Shenandoah County.
- 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 Shenandoah County the following are identified as Mountain Treasures; Big Schloss, Signal Knob and Church Mountain.