While the Nature Conservancy allows public visitation at most of its West Virginia preserves, officials from the organization do enforce a set of policies that apply to all guests.
According to West Virginia Conservation Manager Ashton Berdine, the rules are to ensure the safety of visitors, animals and the land itself. He added that many of the policies can often be gathered through common sense, but the conservancy feels it is necessary to educate individuals about observing the sites.
First, no pets are allowed on the preserves, a measure that protects other visitors and native wildlife, which includes rattlesnakes and copperheads. All species living on the preserves deserve the respect of guests, conservancy officials stressed.
Next, Berdine noted that camping, which includes the use of fire, is prohibited on all preserves. In addition, bicycles and motorized vehicles, such as ATVs and trucks, are not permitted either.
"Most of our preserves are open to public visitation," he added. "They are all open to walking only. There are no truck trails or anything like that. All preserves are open from daylight to dark. We just ask people to be courteous to any neighbors and not to trespass onto any neighboring landowners' property." Nature Conservancy officials also cautioned visitors about rugged terrain, including open cliffs with dangerous drops and steep hiking trails. Guests should be aware of their own limits.
"Dress accordingly," Berdine advised. "Be sure to wear boots and carry plenty of water. Stick to designated trails." Finally, Berdine stressed that hunting is not permitted on any of the West Virginia preserves, but many people do hunt on the neighboring areas in the fall. Thus, visitors should wear bright colors and make noise during that season.
He added that while hunting is not allowed, visitors should be careful in case someone does break the rules and decides to hunt on the preserves.
"Just in case there are people trespassing and hunting, take extra caution," Berdine said. "That's just common sense.
For more information about the Nature Conservancy or the preserves in West Virginia, contact the state office at (304) 637-0160.