New National Park and Preserve

This Green Gazette includes updates on a new designated national park, a report on diversity in American farms, sweet potato biodiversity, and more.


In December 2020, America’s 63rd National Park was designated in West Virginia, the state’s first. Named the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, it spans 70,000 acres of land along the New River between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville. The park’s updated status was part of an omnibus spending bill signed into law in late 2020, and Senator Shelley Moore Capito has touted the park as a win for West Virginia.

bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Photo by Adobe Stock/George
 
Legally, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has been under the protection and management of the National Park Service (NPS) since 1978 as a National River. In her statements, Capito has emphasized economics as a key component of the decision to designate the area as a National Park instead, a classification that imparts new signage, additional parking, and increased media attention. Based on figures from other monument and park designations, Capito hopes for a 20 percent increase in annual visitors to the area.

According to the NPS, the new law allows for the possibility of purchasing an additional 3,700 acres of land from private landowners to add to the preserve in the future. While the update and potential expansion promises a boost to adventure retailers and tour guides in nearby Fayetteville (with additional federal investment in increased parking near popular trailheads), some locals, including hunters, are wary. Even though most of the area will still be open to backcountry hunting (designated a National Preserve by the NPS to allow for this traditional activity), local hunter Larry Case says, “Hunters really took it on the chin.” With this decision, the 7,021-acre area centering on the New River Gorge Bridge — the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere — has been made off-limits to hunting. Case says he doesn’t know whether it’s the most scenic spot, but it’s “the heart of the gorge.” While the new National Park might put the gorge on the radar of many in the Washington, D.C., metro area, Case worries about how larger crowds of visitors will impact the area and effectively restrict access for locals. And locals like Case might have an essential role to play in protecting such tracts of land in the future, since a place’s prestige and preservation can be swayed by ever-changing legislation.

mountain-climbing
The National Park designation will likely increase tourism to the region.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Ryan
 
The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is set to join 19 other National Preserves in the United States, only two of which are east of the Mississippi River. Learn more at National Parks.


America’s Diverse Family Farms Report

farm
In 2019, family farms accounted for 98 percent of farms and 86 percent of production in the U.S.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Wollwerth Imagery
 
A majority of the approximately 2 million American farms are still family businesses, in one finding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual report “America’s Diverse Family Farms,” which contains the latest government statistics on U.S. farms. According to the report, “Family farms as a group, across type, accounted for 98 percent of farms and 86 percent of production in 2019.” Of those, 90 percent are “small” (grossing less than $350,000), but are responsible for only 22 percent of production, while large-scale family farms account for 44 percent of production.

The report covers production, financial performance, and farm household characteristics by farm size through 2019. Other key conclusions from the report include:



  • Women act as operators in more than half (51 percent) of all farming operations, with the largest share of these being farms that specialize in poultry and other livestock. Women are joint or primary operators on 58 percent of dairy farms.
  • Direct-to-consumer crop sales are the most common form of direct sales, but only 9 percent of farm operations participate in direct-sales supply chains.
  • In the next five years, 17 percent of principal operators plan to retire, but more than 60 percent of them don’t have a successor or a succession plan for their farming operation.

To read the report and the rest of its conclusions, go to America's Diverse Family Farms: 2020 Edition.




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