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CHARLESTON — New hunting rules authorized in legislation granting national park and preserve status to the former New River Gorge National River took effect starting Saturday.

Under the new hunting rules, detailed in an updated Superintendent’s Compendium of park regulations, hunting will remain an authorized activity within the preserve portions of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. The preserve sections of the Gorge include 65,165 acres, or about 90% of the National Park Service tract.

An additional 400 acres in the Grandview section of the park, previously closed to hunting, will be available to hunters under the rule change. That site stretches uphill from Glade Creek Road to the cliff band below the scenic overlooks at Grandview. It will be accessible only from Glade Creek Road.

Hunting will be prohibited in the four areas making up the national park portions of the federal tract — Sandstone Falls, lower gorge, Thurmond and Grandview Top.

Updated maps of designated hunting areas can be found on the park’s website,

Other rule changes taking effect with the start of the new year include a ban on installing physical geocache sites within the national park and preserve, since the activity can lead to the creation of unofficial trails and habitat damage. The use of virtual caches — sites where visits can be authenticated by answering questions about the site or recording its image — will be allowed.

The start of the new year also marks the implementation of new rules regarding pets in the park and preserve. Four will become the maximum number of pets allowed at each campsite, while individual hikers will be allowed to travel with no more than two leashed dogs while using park trails.

The Gauley Rail Grade in the National Park Service-administered Gauley River National Recreation Area will be available for use by hikers and bikers as of Jan. 1.

However, motorized use of the former railbed will be restricted to National Park Service vehicles or the vehicles of people who have been issued special-use permits.

Last month, park officials announced that ramps had been removed from a list of fruits, nuts, berries and other edible plants that can be collected from the park and used for personal consumption because of a decline in ramp populations in documented habitat sites. The ban on ramp-digging also begins Jan. 1.

Rick Steelhammer is a features reporter for HD Media. He can be reached at 304-348-5169 or Follow on Twitter @rsteelhammer.

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