Published On: Fri, Dec 13th, 2013

A national treasure in our own backyard – Monongahela National Forest

falls of rivers creek by Randall Sanger

The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is a citizen-driven campaign to forever preserve one of the largest expanses of contiguous wild forest in the eastern United States. The monument, comprised entirely of existing federal lands on the Monongahela National Forest, would be the first of it’s kind in the Mountain State.

The designation includes the Cranberry Wilderness, which has become a storied destination for those seeking a primitive backcountry experience, as well as Falls of Hills Creek, Cranberry Glades, Tea Creek Backcountry, Highland Scenic Highway, Turkey Mountain Backcountry, and the Headwaters of six critical watersheds.

Michael Costello, executive director of West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, in a presentation to the Lewisburg Rotary on Dec. 9, said, “Protected lands which are important to today’s administration, may not be as important at some point in the future.” This is because most of these special places are managed under temporary guidelines, leaving their future uncertain, with a number of industrial threats on the horizon.

“A national monument is not a thing, as one might think,” Costello said. “It is a status, which permanently preserves special places possessing unique scientific, scenic, geological, cultural or historic values.”

National monument designation would provide strong, lasting protections to these sensitive areas, while allowing all currently permitted recreational activities to continue. It would also continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

monument map“Research has consistently shown that national monument communities experience strong economic growth in the years following the designation,” Costello says.

National monument designation would enhance the value of the land to local communities; it would ensure the availability of quality recreation resources and provide opportunities for local businesses likely to benefit from potential increases in visitation. Commercial logging would experience a negligible effect, as the area in question is already managed by guidelines to emphasize backcountry recreation, preservation and spruce restoration.

The goal of creating the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is to preserve the landscape for generations to come. Stakeholders such as recreation groups, community leaders, business owners, religious organizations and civic bodies are encouraged to participate in the initiative for a successful monument designation.

National monuments may be designated by an act of Congress or created by presidential proclamation, through use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Since the passage of the Antiquities Act, all but three presidents have created national monuments to preserve special features for the discovery and enjoyment of future generations.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Michael Costello at 304-645-0949 or by email at michael.costello@wvwild.org. The website for the initiative is www.BirthplaceofRivers.org.