Skip to main content

Mon Forest Towns initiative partners awarded $150K to support land use planning

Partners supporting the Mon Forest Towns initiative have been awarded $150,000 to support land use planning in the Mon Forest. 

The program is a collaboration among the WVU College of Law Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, Downstream Strategies and the Mon Forest Town Partnership, with the support of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

 Community members from across the region gather at Elkins Amphitheater to set positive intentions before the Mon Forest Towns Mon-U-Mental Event.

Community members from across the region gather at Elkins Amphitheater to set positive intentions before the Mon Forest Towns Mon-U-Mental Event.

The Monongahela National Forest, in the north central highlands of West Virginia, comprises roughly a million acres of National Forest System land. The numerous rural communities that are surrounded by the MNF have long had their livelihoods tied to the coal and timber industries and wood products. Over the last few decades, these industries have waned, and these communities are working together to find a new path forward. 

The Mon Forest Towns Partnership was formed nearly a decade ago. Its mission is to cultivate relationships across lands and forest gateway communities that enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors, while sustaining the very attributes that attract 1.3 million visitors to their communities annually.

Part of this funding will support development of individualized comprehensive plans for Cowen, Durbin, Franklin and potentially Pendleton County, Petersburg and Richwood. Of these, only Richwood has a comprehensive plan and that plan needs to be updated. 

These communities were specifically chosen as partners to develop and pilot an “Implementable Comprehensive Plan Guidebook” due to existing relationships with the Law Clinic and the Mon Forest Towns. The Guidebook will provide a detailed, step-by-step guide for communities that are interested in developing a comprehensive plan. 

A checklist will be developed, and the community will know exactly what they need to do before, during and after comprehensive plan creation.

The Land Use Law Clinic aims to provide an “implementable” comprehensive plan that focuses on developing clear, concise recommendations consistent with the community’s vision, and achievable in both the short-term and long-term. 

The comprehensive planning process analyzes the community holistically, including a review of infrastructure, tourism, housing, education, public services, historic preservation, economic development, recreation and transportation. These inputs help identify potential issues and concerns and provide recommendations to address them. 

“Developing a Comprehensive Plan is a critical step in developing a strong, sustainable recreation economy, as it creates the perfect opportunity for engaging and aligning community members around a shared vision for the future. It also sets towns up for success when pursuing federal funding for community projects. We are so grateful to the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for providing the funding to make this project a reality. It will benefit our Mon Forest Towns and rural communities across America for the foreseeable future,” Joshua Nease, executive director of Mon Forest Towns, said.

The WVU Land Use Law Clinic is one of the state’s leading providers of land use, planning, legal and land conservation services in the state. The Clinic has provided over a decade of high-level services to communities across the state and has worked in almost all 55 counties. The mission of the Land Use Law Clinic is to “provide legal and planning services to conserve land and water, support local land use planning, and offer educational opportunities for law students and citizens of West Virginia.”

Downstream Strategies is an environmental and economic development consulting firm based in Morgantown that offers specialized community and land use planning services. Downstream is considered the go-to source for objective, data-based analyses, plans and actions that strengthen economies, sustain healthy environments, and build resilient communities. 

The firm offers services that combine sound interdisciplinary skills with a core belief in the importance of protecting the environment and linking economic development with natural resource stewardship.

Article originally shared here on Mountaineer E-News. 

WVU LAW Facebook WVU LAW Twitter WVU LAW Instagram WVU LAW LinkedIn WVU LAW Youtube Channel