Protect natural beauty

Published 10:06 am Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our region is blessed with natural beauty. A large part of that beauty comes from three rivers — the Blackwater, Nottoway and Meherrin — which traverse our area, serve as the entry points for the likes of birdwatchers and canoers and provide a safe habitat for a bevy of wildlife.

All three rivers are resources that must be protected. The Scenic Rivers Program, which is operated through the state Department of Conservation & Recreation, provides a level of protection.

If all goes according to plan, 56 miles of the Blackwater, from Proctors Bridge to the North Carolina state line, will become a scenic river sometime next year.

The Nottoway and Meherrin should be designated as scenic, too.

A scenic river designation along the two rivers would benefit our citizens because it would give them, along with riparian landowners and local governments, a greater say in how federal and state projects might affect the rivers. It would also require the state to consider the scenic aesthetics of the rivers for planning and permitting purposes.

The designation would not affect a riparian landowner’s right to use the river or its banks for grazing, irrigation, hunting or fishing, nor would it impose any restrictions on hunting, fishing or boating on the river or adjacent lands. It would not adversely affect any of the industries located along the rivers, either.

Although the designation is not intended to promote an increase in the recreational use of the rivers, we believe that if the Nottoway and Meherrin were made scenic more people would be interested in visiting them for canoeing, fishing, birdwatching, etc. This would, in turn, bring more tourism dollars to the area and provide a green engine of economic activity.

Our region is blessed with natural beauty. Let’s do whatever we can to keep it that way and, at the same time, share it with others.