COMMENTS NEEDED: Road through Blackwater Canyon Proposed (WV)

Posted: 12/04/2002
by Jason Robertson

Sample Letter -- Maps of Area

The Forest Service has received a request from Allegheny Wood Products to grant a road easement to cross the Monongahela National Forest. This road is intended to facilitate logging in the Blackwater Canyon. Your comments are needed

The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) requires the Forest Service to "provide such access to non-federally owned land within the boundaries of the National Forest System as the Secretary deems adequate to secure to the owner the reasonable use and enjoyment thereof..."

ANILCA also provides that the owner's access be "subject to such terms and conditions as the [Forest Service] may prescribe."

Allegheny Woods has requested access consistent with ANILCA and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) for logging on their land between the river and the old railroad grade through Blackwater Canyon.

According to the Forest Service, there is no deeded access to Allegheny Woods' property. The land is extremely steep, and is bounded on the south by the Blackwater River. Access from Allegheny Woods' property on the opposite bank is considered difficult, because a costly bridge would have to be constructed over the Blackwater River. Therefore the Forest Service asserts that the "only reasonable access to the AWP property is via the railroad grade through the Canyon, a portion of which AWP is a half owner. The federal government owns the other half of the grade, which is administered by the Forest Service as part of the Monongahela National Forest.

Comments are due by January 3rd, 2003 and should be sent to:

Forest Supervisor Clyde N. Thompson
Forest Service
200 Sycamore Street
Elkins, WV 26241
Your letter should include:
  1. Your name and address
  3. Specific facts of comments, along with supporting reasons, that the USFS should consider in making a decision.
More information at


Forest Supervisor Clyde N. Thompson
Forest Service
200 Sycamore Street
Elkins, WV 26241
Dear Forest Supervisor Thompson,

I frequently visit the Blackwater Canyon and as an American Whitewater member I am concerned about the recreational and environmental impact of the proposed access easement through the Blackwater Canyon on the railroad grade.

This easement may threaten my ability to recreate and boat on the North Fork and main stem Blackwater River. The heavy traffic that is likely to occur on the railroad grade if an easement is provided could make it dangerous for pedestrians to hike or portage on Forest Service property along the railroad grade.

This pedestrian and boater use of the railroad grade has been a major attraction and use of the Monongahela National Forest for at least 20 years, and this use should be protected and allowed to continue regardless of the decision to permit an access easement.

On a typical visit to the Blackwater Canyon for boating purposes, I and my friends spend at least $50 each to support local businesses; this support is likely to cease if pedestrian access to the railroad grade is threatened or closed.

I am also concerned about the effect of road development and traffic on surface runoff and silting of the pristine water quality of the Blackwater River.

If the easement is permitted, I ask that the Forest Service use its authority to limit the impacts on recreation and the environment by:
  1. Restricting vehicle access on days with measurable precipitation such as rain or snow to limit erosion and to protect recreational boating access opportunities;
  2. Restricting vehicle access within 3 days of any measured precipitation to limit erosion and to protect recreational boating access opportunities;
  3. Imposing a speed limit of 5 mph on the railroad grade to protect pedestrians;
  4. Requiring Allegheny Woods to construct an alternate parking area adequate for 4 vehicles to park near the existing gated access point by Blackwater Falls on the North Fork Blackwater River, if that existing parking access is reduced or otherwise threatened by Allegheny Woods use of the easement;
  5. Requiring Allegheny Woods to maintain the access road and raliroad grade, and to repair potholes on a regularly scheduled basis and as needed; and
  6. Requiring Alleghey Woods to reinforce and repair the bridges and culverts along the North Fork access road, which would be threatened by heavy use of loaded vehicles, particular emphasis should be placed on repairing the narrow railroad timber trestle about 300 yards from the waterfall and gate.


Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349