I appreciated the Mountain Messenger’s recent coverage of the proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. I disagree, however, with the Dec. 24, 2013 headline, “Birthplace of Rivers Designation Hits a Snag,” regarding recent discussion of the proposal before the Greenbrier County Commission.
I support the proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, because it is a great opportunity to boost recreational tourism for the Greenbrier Valley and Mountain State. A national monument designation would better protect a unique headwaters area already in the Monongahela National Forest, and continue to allow the uses we currently enjoy. It is estimated that recognition of the area as a national monument would create some 143 additional jobs in and around Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties, and generate $5.2 million in added economic activity. More information is available at http://www.birthplaceofrivers.org.
Several Greenbrier County Commissioners expressed support for an inclusive process if a national monument is to be designated. That is precisely what advocates of the monument have tried to foster – a transparent process that addresses legitimate concerns of all stakeholders. I feel Commissioners’ encouragement of collaboration and inclusion was a positive development for the initiative, and I applaud commissioners for urging groups to work together. Monument campaigns in many other states have been supported broadly by fishing and hunting groups, and we hope to produce a similar result in the Mountain State. Trout Unlimited and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition are among groups supporting the designation, because it will preserve woods and waters, and protect access for to the area for future generations.
The experience around the country with existing national monuments shows monument designation can work to suit the needs of anglers and hunters, other outdoor recreationists, and the timber industry. Moreover, future management plans will be drafted by the U.S. Forest Service with robust public comment and the participation of community leaders and stakeholders. Any person or group that is prepared to engage in respectful communication is encouraged to come to the table and address any concerns relating to the proposed national monument.
The Greenbrier County Commissioners showed leadership by encouraging collaboration and transparency. I hope our congressional delegation will do the same, by bringing West Virginians together around this unique opportunity to protect our water, show off our scenic beauty, honor our heritage, and grow local economies.
William D. Turner