POCAHONTAS COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, and Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, today announced they have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to consider opening up portions of the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas County to hunters and vehicular traffic during spring gobbler season.
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard recently met with officials representing the Forest Service’s Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger District to request the gates that close off about 45 miles of road in the district be opened during spring turkey hunting season.
The Forest Service closes the roads from March 1 to Aug. 31, in part to allow for the turkeys’ natural nesting season, but opens the gates for fall hunting seasons. Delegate Porterfield said constituents in his district brought the issue to his attention and asked for state help in convincing federal officials to open the area during the spring.
“Senator Maynard and I are in lock-step agreement that there is a lack of equality for our spring gobbler hunters with these strategic gates being locked, blocking off nearly 25 percent of the Monongahela National Forest in the White Sulphur District during this spring hunting season,” Delegate Porterfield said. “If these gates are unlocked during fall deer hunting season, it only makes sense to allow our hunters to hunt these good areas during spring gobbler season. We’re just asking for equality and non-discriminatory treatment for our turkey hunters.”
Senator Maynard said this land belongs to the American people, so they should have the right to use it year-round.
“I am a huge advocate for taxpayers having the right to access their state and federally owned land,” Senator Maynard said. “This access would not only give spring gobbler hunters the ability to arrive at a much closer location to their spot, but would allow better access for older or physically challenged hunters that do not have their Class Q hunting license.”
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard also said opening these roads could provide an economic boost for the area during the spring.
“This could potentially open up tourism revenue in these good areas, following the winter ski season, so that our hunters and others could come in and enjoy our great West Virginia forests and wildlife,” Delegate Porterfield said.
Senator Maynard said opening the roads could also boost tourism with off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
“I am very passionate about motorized trail recreation,” Senator Maynard said. “This state is very lacking when it comes to off-highway vehicle trail access, and the more trails that officials leave gated and closed off means fewer trails that are accessible for off-highway vehicle use.”
Delegate Porterfield and Senator Maynard are awaiting a decision from USDA officials, and encouraged hunters to contact the local offices of the Forest Service to encourage them to consider opening these areas next spring.