High in the mountains of the southern Monongahela National Forest lies one of the largest expanses of contiguous wild forest in the eastern United States. As the largest federally-protected Wilderness Area in the East, Cranberry Wilderness has become a storied destination for those seeking a most primitive backcountry experience. Surrounding Cranberry Wilderness is a tightly-packaged complex of some of West Virginia’s most iconic natural treasures. With its rugged terrain, rich biodiversity and dense red spruce forests, the region has been identified as an important stronghold against climate change. The fragile headwaters of six-regionally significant waterways are located within this truly incredible wild landscape. Unfortunately, most of these special places are managed under temporary guidelines, leaving their futures uncertain, with a number of industrial threats on the horizon.
The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument initiative is a citizen-driven campaign to forever preserve this magnificent landscape, which means so much to West Virginia as a whole.
National Monument designation would provide strong, lasting protections to these sensitive areas, while allowing all currently permitted recreational activities to continue. The monument, comprised entirely of existing federal lands on the Monongahela National Forest, would be the first of it’s kind in the Mountain State, and would continue to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
National Monument status is a special designation which preserves special places possessing unique scientific, scenic, geological, cultural or historic values. There is no true standard for how all national monuments are managed, as they range from historic urban buildings to multi-million acre western landscapes. Monuments are managed by a variety of federal agencies, and Birthplace of Rivers would be the first U.S. Forest Service-managed national monument in the East. National Monuments may be designated by an act of Congress, or they may created by presidential proclamation, through use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Since the passage of the Antiquities Act, all but three presidents -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have created national monuments to preserve special features for the discovery and enjoyment of future generations.
The current Birthplace of Rivers National Monument proposal is the result of an ongoing collaborative process to define a recommended management scheme that provides enhanced protection from industrial activities, while allowing continued ecological restoration, recreational access and management of the area as a high-quality hunting and fishing destination. The goals of the Birthplace of Rivers initiative are not aimed at fundamentally changing the way this special landscape is managed, accessed or enjoyed. In actuality, monument designation is a viable, broadly-support tool to ensure that future West Virginians and our visitors will forever be able to pass on time-honored outdoor traditions and experience their unique natural and cultural heritage on one of Appalachia’s most extraordinary treasures.