This Father's Day, I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than fishing with my two kids in the streams of the Monongahela National Forest.
It's a family tradition that goes back to my ancestors in Pocahontas County, and each time I have been able to get out with my children has been a priceless memory I will hold on to forever.
The southern Monongahela is an angler's dream. In particular, one special part of the forest includes the trout-rich headwaters of the Cranberry, Cherry, Elk and Williams watersheds. These precious water resources -- as well as backcountry areas -- have been prized by hunters and anglers throughout history.
As an outdoorsman, this year's chemical spill made me realize how fragile our natural resources are. As a father, the situation made me realize how proactive we must be if we want our children and grandchildren to experience the outdoor traditions that define our heritage.
West Virginia is fortunate to have an abundance of cold, clean, fishable water, and it is our job to keep it that way for generations to come.
That is why West Virginia Trout Unlimited has strived to lead in the initiative to preserve some of our best trout waters as part of the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.
A national monument would not only preserve threatened backcountry areas, but it would also honor West Virginia's heritage, natural beauty and clean headwaters.
It's not just any designation we support. There are some very specific requirements which should be met in order for a national monument to work for the Mountain State's hunters and anglers.
Seeing recent bills in Congress aimed at increasing widespread industrial development and unbridled off-road vehicle access is enough to make anyone understand that unprotected public lands may not always be available for our time-honored traditions.
The national monument process allows the future of this special area of the Monongahela to be designed for West Virginians, by West Virginians, not interests who put profits over people.
Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen have made clear that a national monument should allow continued access for hunting, fishing, and trapping. This means that all roads that are currently open to the public for fishing and hunting should remain open.
Management under a national monument should be flexible, and provide opportunities to improve fish and wildlife habitat. This means that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources maintains openings for grouse, deer, and turkey, and that application of limestone fines for improved fish habitat will continue.
Most importantly, it means we will have a stronger guarantee that future generations will always be able to connect with their rich outdoor heritage in the Birthplace of Rivers.
As I celebrate another Father's Day with my family, I am reminded of how lucky I am to call West Virginia home.
I want to ensure that the Monongahela National Forest remains as it is for future generations to enjoy. I hope our elected officials work with us to designate the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument so that my children and grandchildren can carry on our family tradition as well.