Protecting W.Va. Birthplace of Rivers

June 14, 2015

Reprinted from The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

In a recent column (Profiting from Wild West Virginia, 5/17/15), Mike Myer said of the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, "It ought to be done - if only because we ought to want our grandchildren to see something wild."

I couldn't agree more. I am a Northern Panhandle hunter and angler who regularly visits the Monongahela National Forest. I grew up fishing in these waters and, as a father, I am excited to pass on my sporting heritage to my children. The sense of pride West Virginians for our mountain landscapes and public lands is something we all share and enjoy. Ensuring the Birthplace of Rivers area not only stays wild, but is recognized on a national level could only build a stronger sense of that pride.

I am also a business owner, operating an online forum for West Virginia's sportsmen - a community that has a vested interest in the Monongahela. My business is made possible by strengths like clean water, outdoor recreation and natural beauty. These are some of the features that will help West Virginia attract other small businesses, as well.

As a sportsman, I am pleased the national monument proposal prioritizes protected access for hunting, fishing and all other forms of outdoor recreation enjoyed on the area today. I'm particularly encouraged by the flexibility given to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to keep managing fish and wildlife habitats for quality hunting and angling experiences.

Never before has there been such collaboration in pursuit of protection of part of the Monongahela National Forest. There's been an extensive process of collecting input and tweaking a draft proposal until it works for everyone. This effort truly is unprecedented.

It's an effort that should be honored. I hope Senators Manchin and Capito are paying attention to the way West Virginians are working together to preserve our outdoor heritage and build a stronger economy. They should honor our efforts and introduce legislation that reflects West Virginia's vision for the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.

Zach Pittman