U.S. Interior Secretary visits Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

TUCKER COUNTY, W.Va. — “It’s beautiful” was the initial impression Tucker County made on U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt during his first visit to Canaan Valley. 

On Monday, he joined U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to tour the construction site for the new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service multi-purpose facility at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Davis. 

Walls have started going up for the new building. 

When it’s completed, the new administrative facility will house refuge staff, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s West Virginia Ecological Services Field Office and the Office of Law Enforcement which is currently located in Elkins. 

Plans also call for a visitor center at the facility and educational room for the public along with additional trail development. 

It’s a site that reflects the missions of the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to Secretary Bernhardt, a Colorado native. 

“We’re just committed to expanding access opportunities and enhancing the infrastructure and meeting our infrastructure needs at our parks and refuges and public lands,” he told MetroNews during a phone interview. 

Last year, the Congress appropriated $7 million for the project. 

“We already get over 50,000 visitors every year anyway. This is going to increase that, we think, exponentially,” Capito said. 

“While these are not the vast, hundred-million-acre federal lands that we have out west, these are just as vitally important to our country’s history and our economics.” 

Senator Manchin agreed. 

“It’s going to be an absolutely great draw for all the visitors and, plus I think, just the bragging rights of all the people who live here to show something pretty special that we have,” he said. 

“Corridor H is going to be finished sooner rather than later, but it is going to be finished and when that does (happen) that’s going to open up a tremendous opportunity.” 

During construction, a temporary visitor center is open at the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge. 

Bernhardt, an avid fisherman, has served as the 53rd U.S. Interior Secretary since April. He replaced former Secretary Ryan Zinke who resigned last December. 

The U.S. Department of the Interior oversees 20 percent of U.S. land, including national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and other public lands.

By:  Shauna Johnson
Source: MetroNews