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Turbines may spark comments  

WOODSTOCK – Area residents who fear they won’t be able to see the forest for the wind turbines will get the opportunity to speak their mind.

The U.S. Forest Service will kick off a series of public meetings this month as part of the process to revise its master plan for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The first meeting, and the only one in the area, is from 7 to 9 p.m. July 14 at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.

The public is being asked to comment on how the forest should be managed for the next 10-15 years. With the potential for more than 130 wind turbines to be constructed on forest land in Shenandoah County in the next several years – it’s an idea being looked at by a West Virginia company – public comment on the plan could be high, said Ken Landgraf, a planning staff officer. When a similar project was proposed in Highland County last year, people spoke out, he added.

“I suspect that that will be an important issue at the northern end as well,” Landgraf said.

Revising the forest plan began early last year, with five public meetings in Virginia and one in West Virginia, according to a press release from Wild Virginia conservation director David Hannah. The group will be involved in the planning process, the release states, and, along with seven other conservation organizations, has produced a residents’ vision for the forest.

“At more than a million acres in size, a source of drinking water for many thousands of area residents, and home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and natural communities, [the forest] is a tremendous resource that must be managed wisely,” the release states.

A federal appeals court judge ruled last year that the Forest Service’s planning regulations established in 2005 were in violation of federal law, which put planning on hold at the time. New regulations were put in place a few months ago.

Although two lawsuits, both in California, are challenging the latest regulations, the Forest Service is proceeding with planning again, Landgraf said.

“It’s something we can’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about,” he said of the court cases.

The planning meetings for this year will differ slightly from those last year. Landgraf said this round of meetings will focus on specific pieces of land, including maps of local areas, rather than be a more generic look at forest management.

“We’ll be looking this time more at pieces of land people deal with,” he said. “An important thing is for people to learn from each other.”

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj.

By Preston Knight – Daily Staff Writer

The Northern Virginia Daily

5 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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