Mountain Peeks Updates

It has been several months since our last issue of Mountain Peeks. We publish our magazine when we have the time and material. We have received numerous requests to publish more often and will try to do so. Publishing and distributing a free regional magazine takes a lot of time and expense, and we appreciate your support and patience. We particularly thank our ad sponsors. The ad revenue does not pay all of our expenses, but it sure helps take the edge off, as our local elders like to say.

The past two issues reported several pending matters. Although the magazine publications have long lapses, time does not stop. We hope you enjoy this “update” feature.

Issue One Updates:

Congressman William C. Wampler, Sr.:
The Bald Eagle of the Cumberlands

Congressman Wampler greets President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Congressman Wampler greets President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Issue One ran a beautifully-written story with vintage photographs of the memorable and colorful Congressman William Wampler, Sr. Since that story was published, we lost Congressman Wampler on May 24, 2012, at the age of 86. He loved Southwest Virginia and never stopped advocating for the region’s citizens. We urge you to read the original story.

Our condolences go out to his family, and we thank them for sharing a true patriot with the place he called home. He loved telling stories about politics when odd things sometimes happened at the ballot box. He always kept a cheerful, optimistic disposition and harkened to the days when elected officials disagreed but still got the business of the people done on time and in a common sense fashion. We miss him and those like him that served their country in World War II and thereafter, when our nation pulled together to beat common enemies and fix national problems.

Higher Education in the Mountains: UVA-Wise

Photos by Tim Cox (timccox.com)

Dr. David Prior
Dr. David Prior

This history-driven and compelling article in Issue One, written by Dr. Lu Ellsworth, sets out the impact that Clinch Valley College (now referred to as UVA-Wise) had, and is having, on our region’s students, quality of life, and economy. The College’s recent rapid expansion and growth can be directly attributed to the hard work of its founders who were followed in energy and spirit by alumnus Delegate Terry Kilgore and his political partner, state Senator William Wampler, Jr. These political brothers, along with alumnus Delegate Bud Phillips, brought positive attention, talent, and substantial state funding to a school that started out as a dream, became a concept, and is now one of the nation’s most affordable quality educations backed by the good name and gravitas of the University of Virginia.

Alumni and supporters honor Dr. Prior
Alumni and supporters honor Dr. Prior

On a very sad note, UVA-Wise Chancellor and visionary Dr. David Prior passed away suddenly on February 2, 2012 at the age of 68. In collaboration with state and national educational communities and representatives, coupled with several private benefactors and alumni, Dr. Prior brought the College to a new level of modernization, growth, and stature. He seized opportunities for students in an academic world that is not always quick to identify and corral evolving trends. He had the energy, tenacity, and diplomacy to make things happen and will be sorely missed.

Teresa Sullivan at the ceremony dedicating the new convocation center.
Teresa Sullivan at the ceremony dedicating the new convocation center.

The College’s beautiful new convocation center bears Dr. Prior’s name, as it should. We thank his family, especially his gracious wife, Merry Lu, for sharing him with our little college that could. Anyone wishing to further his life’s goals at UVA-Wise can donate to the David J. Prior Scholarship Fund, UVA-Wise Foundation, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, 1 College Avenue, Wise, VA 24293.

ISSUE TWO UPDATES:

In a follow-up to Dr. Lu Ellsworth’s article in Issue Two about the Appalachian School of Law (ASL), we have an update regarding a new program on the way from ASL. This issue of Mountain Peeks features Dr. Ellsworth’s third article about higher education in our region, the Appalachian College of Pharmacy.

Higher Education in the Mountains: Appalachian School of Law
Update: ASL Plans Natural Resources Law Program and Center

nat_res_law_group_oThe Appalachian School of Law plans to launch a Natural Resources Law Program in the fall of 2013. Intended to provide a place for rational discussion, intelligent debate, and collaboration, the program focuses on balancing energy needs with stewardship of our land, water, and other natural resources, and looking at both short and long-term interests. ASL’s mission is to train attorneys to navigate the increasingly complex world of natural resources law and develop students into effective attorneys and policy makers.

In the heart of Appalachia’s coal and gas fields, ASL is strategically located to engage and attract students who have an interest in Natural Resources Law. The program will provide students a hands-on environment and challenging curriculum. ASL currently offers several natural resource classes, including Natural Resources Law, Environmental Law, Sustainable Energy Law, Coal and Hard Mineral Law, and Environmental Dispute Resolution. “We are working on even more course offerings,” explains Sustainable Energy Law Professor Buzz Belleville, chair of the ASL Curriculum Committee. “The goal is to produce students who have both practical skills – like the ability to write title opinions, analyze proposed regulations, and draft mineral leases – and a balanced and holistic understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the energy industry.”

In addition to its curricular offerings, ASL has a dedicated Natural Resources Law Journal, active student organizations in both Energy and Mineral Law and Environmental Law, moot court teams that compete at both Energy Law and Environmental Law competitions, a joint certificate program with Virginia Tech’s Graduate School of Natural Resources, and a strong partnership with the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation.

ASL Campus
ASL Campus

ASL also works to place students in summer externships and clerkships within the energy and natural resources field. Expanding partnerships with industry, government, and non-profit organizations is essential to ASL’s efforts. “We’re looking to develop mutually beneficial relationships,” explains Professor Patrick Baker. “We can develop practitioners who become valuable attorneys in the mineral and energy field and leaders in their communities. Also, our students and faculty will be able to provide honest and balanced insight on issues that interest our partners and are beneficial to our communities.”

ASL is leading efforts to build an advisory Task Force of attorneys and representatives of the mineral and energy industry, regulatory agencies, and environmental conservation groups. The Task Force will analyze the landscape of legal, industrial, and environmental elements to develop the strategic direction of the Program. Additionally, ASL is currently planning a Natural Resources Law Symposium in the fall of 2013 as well as Legal Clinic.

The Natural Resources Law Program is led by a diverse and talented team. After practicing in the natural resources law field for 19 years, Justice Elizabeth A. McClanahan, Virginia Supreme Court, leads the Program as Academic Chair. She is ASL’s first Street Memorial Distinguished Visitor in Real Estate Law. Justice McClanahan is spearheading efforts to institute a nationally-recognized academic program and curriculum.

Program Counsel Daniel H. Caldwell, Esq., Shareholder at McElroy, Hodges, Caldwell, and Thiessen, joined ASL’s Natural Resources Law Program in January 2012. During his 34 years of practice, his representation has included business and energy clients on general corporate, litigation, and transactional issues. As counsel to the Program, he oversees the implementation of all programs.

Professor Patrick R. Baker teaches Coal and Hard Mineral law and serves as a chair of the Institutional Development and Strategic Planning Committee. Before coming to ASL, he represented the mineral and energy industry while practicing at the law offices of PennStuart & Eskridge. He is active in the Energy Mineral Law Foundation, and his scholarship focuses on the mineral and energy industry. His articles have been published by Vermont and Pace University.

Professor Mark (Buzz) Belleville has been affiliated with ASL’s creation of a Natural Resources Law Program since 2009 and serves as chair of the Curriculum Committee. He teaches Sustainable Energy Law and is faculty advisor to the Natural Resources Law Journal, Environmental Law Society, and Energy and Mineral Law Society. He helped establish ASL’s partnership with Virginia Tech to offer a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Natural Resources.

Professor Derrick Howard has served on ASL’s Natural Resources Committee since its inception in 2009. He teaches Natural Resources Law and serves as chair of the externship committee. Additionally, his contributions to building ASL’s program are bolstered by his 18 years of practice. His academic scholarship explores water law and environmental human rights.

Professor Priscilla Harris practiced civil litigation with Reed Smith in Philadelphia and Bell Boyd in Washington, D.C. Prior to coming to ASL, she operated her own law practice in Orange Park, Florida, where she concentrated on land use, environmental law, and civil-rights litigation. She teaches Environmental Law.

2013 promises to be an exciting year as the Program continues to build momentum and develop important relationships. The commercial use of minerals, water, land, and other natural resources is essential to a healthy economy, and conservation and care of the earth’s natural systems are necessary for life. We see a need for a place where attorneys can advocate for the competing interests of natural resources, commerce, and conservation, and where they can meet and find mutually sustainable solutions based on rational thought and cooperation at ASL’s Natural Resources Law Center.

Elk Returning to Virginia Coalfields Soon?
Update: They Are B-a-a-a-c-k!!!

Bull Elk Bugling
Bull Elk Bugling

Big, healthy elk have now been transplanted from huge Kentucky herds to Buchanan County, Virginia. Although not the smaller, now extinct, Eastern elk that were hunted to death, their big Western cousins are here to stay. Buchanan County leaders have long advocated elk in the Virginia coalfields, and now several of the big boys, their mates, and offspring are poised to thrive and multiply over the coming years. With them will come tourism, greater wildlife appreciation, and eventually an elk hunting season when the herds are sustainable.

The editor and publisher of Mountain Peeks, Frank Kilgore, represented Buchanan County as its assistant county attorney for several years, and during that time worked with county leaders and wildlife advocates to change Virginia’s policy that allowed wandering Kentucky elk that strayed into the Old Dominion to be shot and tagged as “deer.”

The following article by Bill Cochran, a regional wildlife writer is re-printed with permission.

Bill Cochran’s Outdoors: Elk Advocate Finally Gets His Day

On May 18, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries released elk onto a reclaimed strip mine area in Buchanan County, the first effort to reestablish an elk herd in Virginia since the early 1900s.

It is a dream come true for Frank Kilgore, an attorney based in St. Paul, the son and grandson of coal miners, a book author, and the recipient of the Virginia’s Conservationist of the Year award for his work on behalf of strip mining controls. Kilgore was an advocate of reintroducing elk long before the VDGIF recently warmed to the plan. He was a critic of VDGIF officials when they opposed elk stockings, calling them “boneheads” and “knot heads,” words he sometimes applied to himself.

With the stocking effort now at hand, I had some questions for Kilgore:

Q. What sparked your interested in the restoration of elk in Virginia?
A. When I travel outside Southwest Virginia, I always look for programs and activities that draw tourists and create jobs. Elk do that very well. I have seen them out west and in Pennsylvania and Canada.

Q. Are you on better terms with the VDGIF now that it has begun a release program?
A. They are knot heads and so am I, but they have the ultimate responsibility of making sure what they do is not a threat to our wildlife and the public. Some politics were involved, but when and where are they not?

Q. VDGIF based its opposition to stocking elk on concern over diseases being introduced into the deer herd and livestock. Do you think that concern was overstated?
A. I think initially the resistance was mostly about Kentucky releasing elk near the Virginia border without Virginia wildlife officials being fully involved. Like most neighbors that argue, things were said that in hindsight were not accurate or productive.

Q. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has opposed the release of elk saying the big animals are a risk to crops, grasslands, gardens, orchards, and fences. Highway accidents also have been listed as a concern. What do you say to this?
A. Then we need to eradicate all deer, cows, horses, and drunks that get out into the roads. As for grass, if a few wandering elk put your pasture out of business you were on the edge anyway. Any fence that will turn deer will usually turn elk.

Q. Virginia is getting only 15 elk from Kentucky for release in Buchanan County, far fewer than it had requested. Would you have preferred a larger initial release?
A. I am just glad they are being given a chance to show what a tourist draw and later hunting adventure they bring to Buchanan County. The county was very smart to be the one rolling out the red carpet. I suspect more will be brought over once the first herd brings in thousands of visitors.

Q. Wise and Dickenson counties were invited to join the restoration effort but elected not to take part; meanwhile, there has been strong support in Buchanan County. What made the difference?
A. Misinformation and lack of vision for eco-tourism and enhanced hunting opportunities. Elk County, Pennsylvania, has had elk for 80 years. Why not go look at that model before saying something without the facts? Buchanan County studied the concept years ago and is ahead of the curve. What else can I say?

Two Bull Elk
Two Bull Elk

Q. Do you think Wise and Dickenson eventually will come around to the idea?
A. I don’t know. I do know that Buchanan County has been more aggressive in transforming its economy in preparation for when coal and gas decline greatly. Those days are nigh.

Q. How would you describe the habitat of the release area?
A. Old strip mines offering a bull elk everything he wants: plentiful food, water, and a way to keep his cows in sight. What a life.

Q. What benefits do you see from having elk in Southwest Virginia?
A. Eco-tourism business, future hunting opportunities, and the pride of having these big guys back after their Eastern cousins were driven to extinction. I also worked with VDGIF to re-introduce falcons to the Breaks Interstate Park. It is wild country and needs wildlife.

Q. Do you plan to hunt elk in Virginia when that opportunity is available?
A. No. I am a weenie when it comes to shooting fellow mammals. I won’t kill my own deer, but I sure will accept the tenderloins from my buddies who do. I call it hypocrite meat pie!

Q. Kentucky reached its goal of establishing a herd of 10,000 elk well ahead of schedule. Do you think Virginia will be able to duplicate the success Kentucky has enjoyed?
A. There never will be that many if only Buchanan County hosts them. Even I think that is too many for one county.

Q. VDGIF officials have used the word “amazing” to describe the support of citizens in Buchanan for the elk reintroduction. How would you describe it?
A. The folks in Buchanan County think outside the box. That is why they have a law school, a pharmacy school, and are working on an optometry school. They put their money and elbow grease where their mouth is.

Q. Do you think the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has played an important support role in Virginia’s elk restoration program?
A. Certainly. They were low-profile and apolitical but always ready to act when the politicians cleared the way. I think praise also goes to VDGIF board members Charles Yates and Ward Burton. They made a big difference. At least they were someone the VDGIF staff had to listen to.

Q. Do you think poaching will be a problem in the release area?
A. I think the citizens of Buchanan County will pounce on a poacher with both feet. It is hard to keep the killing of a thousand-pound animal secret, especially after the killer has had a few beers. They will be harshly treated, then mounted.

New Trail Coming Soon to a Big Mountain Near You
Update: Fourteen-mile Brumley Mountain Trail Now Open

View from the Top of the Channels
View from the Top of the Channels

Natives and visitors alike have one more big reason to go outside and enjoy Southwest Virginia’s boundless beauty. After three years of obtaining permits and easements, organizing volunteers, and hand-digging a beautiful walking trail from Low Gap at Hidden Valley Lake to Hayter’s Gap at Route 80 on the Russell-Washington County border, the new Brumley Mountain Trail is complete.

The trail traverses one of the state’s most unbroken wildlife corridors and is a boon to wildlife watchers, sportsmen, and outdoor enthusiasts. Frank Kilgore, the co-editor and publisher of Mountain Peeks, coordinated the trail easements and construction work in behalf of Mountain Heritage, a St. Paul-based conservation group.

The northern trailhead at Route 80 is enhanced with a new gravel parking area, and the hike to The Channels, a Virginia Natural Area Preserve, is part of The Channels State Forest, named after the intriguing rock formation found atop the mountain on the county borders. The three mile walk from Route 80 to The Channels follows the old fire tower road. The tower still stands, and efforts are under way to refurbish it into a viewing platform.

Appalachian Detention Center Crew
Appalachian Detention Center Crew

The state forest brochure says this about The Channels: “At the crest of the mountain, within the Natural Area Preserve, are the Great Channels of Virginia, impressive formations of 400-million-year old sandstone outcroppings. Geologists conclude that The Channels were likely formed while the high elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. These forces shattered and enlarged joints in the sandstone caprock. The Channels are then a large maze of mostly passable crevices in the sandstone.”

The scenery from atop The Channels is spectacular, and the entire length of the eleven-mile Brumley Mountain Trail from The Channels to Hidden Valley was designed to follow a contour of less than 10% grade, no small feat in the steep mountain terrain when the volunteers and detainees had nothing to work with but hand-powered pulaskies, fire rakes, and hand saws.

Joe Johnson VMN CMT Work Group Randolph Phillips VMN CMT Work
Frank Kilgore VMN CMT Work Terry Kilgore

The grand opening ceremony was held at the Hayter’s Gap Community Center and was attended by about 75 supporters, elected officials, and state leaders. David Johnson, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, made the long trek from Richmond to speak. Other speakers included the warden from the Appalachian Detention Center in Russell County, and he was thanked by all for supplying hard-working detainees for the project. Many volunteers helped make the trail possible, and special recognition was given to extraordinary efforts from Claude Gable of Whitetop, David Witt of Southwest Virginia Community College, and Jerry Wilson of Russell County, also known in the area as “Clinch Mountain Man” due to his knowledge of that majestic mountain range.

Delegates Joe Johnson and Israel O’Quinn also spoke, both of whom were raised in Hayter’s Gap. Senator Phillip Puckett joined with them, as well as Delegate Terry Kilgore, one of the major forces behind the state acquisition of the 4800 acres that now make up The Channels State Forest and Channels Natural Area Preserve. For directions to Hidden Valley Lake and the trailhead visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/wmas/maps/hiddenvalley.pdf.

That’s it for Mountain Peeks Updates.
Read on for the new stuff!