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Kaine & Warner Reintroduce Legislation to Form National Scenic Area in Rockingham, Augusta, and Highland Counties

Bill would boost local economies, protect drinking water sources, and preserve endangered wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine led the introduction of the Shenandoah Mountain Act, legislation to establish a 92,562-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area (SMNSA) in Rockingham, Augusta, and Highland counties. He was joined in introducing the legislation by Senator Mark R. Warner. National Scenic Areas are established by Congress to protect the scenic, historic, recreational and natural resources in specific areas, while allowing compatible uses such as outdoor recreation activities.

“The Shenandoah Mountain area is home to critical watersheds, flourishing wildlife, and some of our Commonwealth’s most beautiful landscapes. Last year, I was so excited to hike Ramsey’s Draft to see the beauty of the area first hand,” said Kaine. “Creating a National Scenic Area would help protect the Mountain and the George Washington National Forest, spur economic growth in the Valley, and help ensure Virginians and visitors can enjoy the region for generations to come.”

“The Shenandoah Mountain area provides so much for the Valley – a thriving tourism attraction, an essential source of drinking water, and a beloved locale for idyllic hiking and fishing,” said Warner. “I’m fighting to establish a Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area to protect the region for the many families, businesses, and species that rely on it.”

The SMNSA encompasses four Wilderness areas: Skidmore Fork, Little River, Ramsey’s Draft, and Lynn Hollow, which in sum include 10 peaks above 4,000 feet and 150 miles of trails to attract campers, hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, birders, and equestrians. The legislation also establishes a 5,779-acre wilderness area at Beech Lick Knob, located 10 miles north of the SMNSA.

In addition to providing world class trails, the area includes headwaters for the Potomac and James Rivers and watersheds that provide municipal drinking water sources for Harrisonburg, Staunton, and communities farther downstream. Cold mountain streams in the area are also a stronghold for native brook trout. Today’s legislation would permanently protect those rivers and streams from industrial development, and also help safeguard populations of at-risk species, such as the Cow Knob and Shenandoah Mountain Salamander, that are natural to the area.

In 2021, the tourism economy directly employed 6,543 people and generated $728.5 million in expenditures in Augusta, Rockingham, Bath, and Highland Counties, as well as Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro. In addition to the direct benefits to tourism and other businesses, JMU scientists estimate that lands within the SMNSA proposal already generate $13.7 million per year in other local benefits, including the value of the water supply and energy savings. Designation of the SMNSA would further grow this value.

In May 2022, Senator Kaine hiked the Shenandoah Mountain trail to learn more about the scenic area and the need to protect it. A high-quality photo of Senator Warner visiting the Shenandoah Mountain area is available here.

In addition to Staunton, Augusta, Rockingham, and Harrisonburg local governments, over 400 businesses and organizations have endorsed the designation. A full list of supporters is available here.  

Full text of the legislation is available here.