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West Virginians applaud newest national monuments in California

posted Feb 24, 2016, 6:47 AM by David Lillard   [ updated Feb 25, 2016, 7:21 AM ]

Diverse coalition urges President Obama to designate the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument in West Virginia before 2017

On the heels of President Obama’s largest land national monument designation, a diverse coalition of sportsmen, small business owners, veterans, faith leaders, outdoor recreationists, and conservationists are urging the president to designate the Birthplace of Rivers as a national monument.  The three new national monuments in California — Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains, and Sand to Snow — total nearly 1.8 million acres. At approximately 1.6 million acres, Mojave Trails National Monument is the largest national monument designated by President Obama to date, and signals a sea change in conservation due to its size.  

Thus far, President Obama has designated 22 national monuments, but of those, only three are in the eastern United States, and they are buildings or structures.

Given that this is President Obama’s last year in office, the Birthplace of Rivers coalition is calling on President Obama to protect the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument before he leaves office in January, 2017.

“It is time for President Obama to designate the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument,” said Bruce Donaldson, owner of Four Seasons Outfitters in Richwood. “The clock is ticking, and we want to see the Birthplace of Rivers protected this year. As our state’s only national monument, the Birthplace of Rivers would put a star on the map and boost West Virginia’s struggling economy.”

The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is expected to increase economic activity by $5.2 million annually, and increase visitation by 50,000 people. Already, outdoor recreation generates $7.6 billion annually in consumer spending and is responsible for 82,000 jobs in West Virginia.

West Virginians have worked to protect special places within the proposed monument for decades. 

“Our mountains and rivers bring us together and call us to cherish the gift of God’s creation” said Rev. Jeff Allen, Executive Director of the West Virginia Council of Churches. “As stewards of this creation, it is our responsibility to protect our sources of clean water for both present and future generations.  It is my hope and prayer that President Obama will designate the Birthplace of Rivers as a national monument. Two years after the Freedom Industries chemical spill, we remember how fragile our water is and how much our headwaters need protection. 

The Birthplace of Rivers is a wildlife haven, and is home to deer, turkey, bear, and other West Virginia game species.   The Monongahela National Forest — where the proposal is located — also contains more than 90 percent of West Virginia’s native trout streams. The monument would preserve access to hunting, fishing, and traditional trail use.

“Safeguarding the headwaters of six West Virginia rivers will honor time-tested sportsmen traditions, like hunting and fishing,” said Phil Smith of West Virginia’s Trout Unlimited. “With some of the best trout fishing in the East, we cannot wait to protect this special place.  We are calling on President Obama to listen to West Virginians and designate the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.”

West Virginia hunters and anglers have led the way in forming an unprecedented coalition to permanently preserve part of the Monongahela National Forest as the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.

 "I think most veterans look at public lands as one of the unique aspects of the American landscape that makes this country worth fighting for," said Paul Wilson, a  U.S. Marine Corps veteran and sportsman from Charles Town. "I take disabled vets out there to fish some of the best trout streams in the state and experience the healing power of nature. Sportsmen and veterans from across the country, all walks of life and political stripes, have praised President Obama for protecting our remaining backcountry and traditions of hunting and fishing. We are hoping he does the same in West Virginia to safeguard the Birthplace of Rivers and we are hoping 2016 is the year.”

 

With countless outdoor recreational activities and opportunities for economic revitalization, a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument would be a win-win for the Mountain State.