Birthplace of Rivers National Monument Initiative Unveils Monument Proposal
Proposal reflects a collaborative vision to protect access and preserve this treasured land.

For decades, West Virginians have teamed up in an effort to permanently protect the special places considered for inclusion in the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.  For over a year, a broad and diverse coalition of conservation organizations, recreation grous, individuals and community leaders have worked together in a collaborative fashion to define a vision for a national monument in the Monongahela National Forest.  Each national monument is managed differently, according to place-specific needs and resources.  The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument Proposal proposal aims to establish stronger protecitions and provide economic benefits, while addressing the management and access needs of user groups, local communities and land managers.  

Read the collaborative draft proposal

Economic Report: Proposed monument could create jobs, support local economy by $5.2 million

Press Release: Birthplace of Rivers National Monument Initiative Unveils Monument Proposal

The collaborative proposal:
Ensures continued access for the land uses West Virginians cherish

The proposed national monument would continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  All currently-permitted recreational activities would be allowed under national monument designation.  Foraging for wild edible plants and mushrooms would continue.  Hunting, hunting with dogs, trapping and fishing would be unaffected.  Establishment of the monument would not close any roads currently open to the public.  Rather than restricting current activities, monument designation would identify and protect them as cornerstone values to be forever enjoyed.

Maintains flexibility to manage for current resource objectives
National monuments are meant to be flexible tools which can address a variety of resource management objectives.  In the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, management activities, including timber harvest, would be used to further restoration of spruce and northern hardwood communities where such goals are emphasized.  Vegetation treatments and other active management activities may also be used for important objectives such as stream restoration, improvement of wildlife habitat, to provide for public safety, and to control outbreaks of fire, disease, insects or invasive plants.  

Creates stronger, lasting protections for some of the Mountain State's most iconic natural features
National monument status would bestow a statutory designation for this special area, meaning the special resources and activities currently enjoyed would receive protection against future administrative or legislative changes that would erode current management emphases.  In general, the monument would incorporate management empases identified under the 2006 Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, in an area including special featues such as:

·         Headwaters and tributaries of the Cranberry, Cherry, Elk, Gauley, Williams and Greenbrier Rivers.

·         Cranberry Wilderness which features dense forests of red spruce, trout streams and black bear habitat;

·         Tea Creek Backcountry, with some on the best mountain biking best trails in the Mid-Atlantic;

·         Cranberry Glades, a unique series of tundra-like bogs which shelter migratory birds and rare plants;

·         The site of the former Mill Point Federal Prison which imprisoned prohibition moonshiners and conscientious objectors;

·         The iconic Falls of Hills Creek which includes West Virginia's second-highest waterfall; and

·         The Highland Scenic Highway which skirts the Cranberry Wilderness, providing unparalleled views of the Williams River Valley.

Final Boundaries In the Works
The draft monument proposal serves as an important focal point for future discussion and collaboration in the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument initiative.  Inculded in the area identified for initial consideration is the 48,000 acre Cranberry Wilderness Area, and up to 75,000 acres of backcountry territory and unique natural features.  Final proposed boundaries are an important aspect of a formal proposal, and as part of the collaborative process, partners invite additional feedback and constructive input regarding potential boundaries as the conversation moves forward.


Forest Service Chief Weighs in on Monument Designation in West Virginia

In early 2013, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell corresponded with community leaders regarding key aspects of the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument process.  As the collaborative process continued, some important questions came up from community leaders about whether certain recreational or management activities could continue under monument designation.

"National monument designation can bring many public benefits including increased visitation and additional opportunities for potential federal resources to be matched by other federal, local and private resources for broader restoration objectives." 
                                                                        USFS Chief Thomas Tidwell, in a letter to Pocahontas County Commissioners

Among other issues, Chief Tidwell's letters clarified that:
-Valid existing rights will be preserved
-There is no reason to believe a Forest Service-managed monument will be placed under the management of the National Park Service
-Vegetation treatments and other currently-emphasized management activities can continue
-Monument designation does not diminish the role of the WV Division of Natural resources with regards to fish and wildlife management
-Currently permitted activities such as hunting, fishing, mountain biking, camping, etc. would still be permitted under monument designation
-Management plans would follow an open process involving local leaders and robust public comment

Read the letters to the Pocahontas County Commission here and here.