- Associated Press - Monday, November 25, 2019

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia sportsmen’s groups say they are not happy they could lose about 4,800 acres (1,940 hectares) of hunting land if the New River Gorge National River is designated a national park and preserve.

The Register-Herald reports the proposal by Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin would designate about 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) as a national park, with hunting restricted. Some of that land already has hunting restrictions but more than half does not.

Another 64,000 (25,900 hectares) acres would become a national preserve, where hunting would be allowed.

West Virginia Wildlife Federation President Jerod Harmon said his group won’t support additional restrictions on hunters, anglers or trappers.

“We could have considered support only if sportsmen would get increased access or something of benefit,” he said.

West Virginia Bear Hunters Association President Eric Beck agreed, saying, “We’ve never been for it at all.”

West Virginia Bowhunters Association President Justin Hettick said he is not in “flat out opposition” but also “not very excited about the loss of 5,000 acres.”

Capito said she’s had staffers on the ground surveying the area and plans to walk the ground herself.

“If adjustments need to be made, we’re looking into it,” Capito said, noting that the proposed park borders are not final.

Both senators have said a national park designation will boost tourism.

“Redesignating this and putting a gold medal stamp of a national park on this area says that West Virginia is a beautiful, attractive, spectacular place,” Capito said.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel said in a written statement the department has added more than 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) of public hunting lands in the past three years.

McDaniel said those gains “greatly offset any loss of hunting land in this proposal.”

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