The United States has 109 National Monuments, none of them in West Virginia. That may change. The West Virginia Wilderness Coalition is working with partners to propose a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument in the southern Monongahela National Forest.
The current proposed outline consists of 125,000 acres and includes the Cranberry Wilderness, the largest eastern wilderness area, and Tea Creek Backcountry, with miles of high quality mountain bike trails and excellent trout fishing. The area contains red spruce restoration areas, Sphagnum bogs, and six “regionally-significant rivers” including the Cranberry, Gauley, and Greenbrier. These waterways eventually empty into the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers.
The proposed land, located about an hour from the New River Gorge and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is currently protected. But, except for the permanently designated Cranberry Wilderness, that policy could easily change. “Every 10 years, the priorities [of a national forest] are up for debate,” explains Kelly Jo Drey, campaign organizer for Fayette and Nicholas counties. “We’d like to see the priorities of recreation and habitat restoration for this land be protected forever.” A Birthplace of Rivers National Monument would do just that.
Photo courtesy of Forestwander.com