I grew up in small-town West Virginia, hiking these mountains and swimming in these streams. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, you’d always find me in the creeks looking for crawdads and salamanders. I wasn’t exposed to much hunting as a young girl, and it was usually more fun looking for critters than fishing with them. But as an adult, I developed a passion for both hunting and fishing.
There is nothing that brings me more thrill than going out to sit in the bitter cold on the first day of rifle season and patiently waiting for a big buck to walk into my crosshairs as I excitedly pull the trigger. Or better yet, spending the day hiking up and down our beautiful rocky streams looking for that perfect hole and then feeling the tug on the line and seeing that flash of silver with a fish on. These are passions that I hope to one day pass down to my young son. He already has a good cast and pretends to hunt squirrels with his “stick gun”, but I worry about what kind of world he will be living in when he’s my age.
Over the past 30 years, I have witnessed the changes that have occurred in West Virginia’s forests and streams. Natural disasters such as droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and more intense. These extreme storm events are damaging our streams, degrading fish and wildlife habitat, jeopardizing water supplies, and threatening our local communities.
Part of the problem is that we haven’t done enough to preserve and restore our natural areas so they are healthy and can survive catastrophic weather events. Investing in such natural infrastructure can prevent flooding, withstand droughts, improve hunting and fishing, and make communities more resilient.
We also need to make increased investments in clean energy technology, which will create good, high-paying jobs for West Virginia workers, improve our quality of life and prevent our youth from looking for work elsewhere.
Fortunately, a solution is on the horizon. Congress is poised to make historic investments in forest and stream restoration, while also investing in clean energy jobs. Those investments will fund shovel-ready projects that would create good jobs, and revitalize fish and game habitat. We need Senator Manchin to spearhead this effort and make West Virginia a leader in our nation’s transition to a clean energy future.
I urge Senator Manchin to put the needs of West Virginians first and support the natural infrastructure and clean energy investments that are proposed in the Build Back Better Act. Such projects will restore wildlife habitat, rehabilitate our damaged lands and waters, protect communities from catastrophic flooding and create thousands of good-paying jobs to boost our economy. It’s a win-win-win for West Virginia and a smart investment that will benefit our mountain state’s future hunters and anglers.
Autumn Crowe is a hunter and angler based in West Virginia.
The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund while investing in a backlog of public land maintenance, providing current and future generations the outdoor recreation opportunities like boat launches to access fishable waters, shooting ranges, and public lands to hunt as well as the economic stimulus we need right now.