Birthplace of Rivers National Monument Proposal in Pocahontas County Explained
To learn more about the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument proposed for Pocahontas County, we spoke with Frank Gifford who is a member of “Friends of the Monument”. Frank explains the proposed location and size of the Monument.
“The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument includes approximately a hundred and twenty thousand acres, mostly in the Gauley Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest” Frank says. “It’s all National Forest, all federally owned land. It includes the Cranberry Wilderness. (The) Cranberry Wilderness remains Wilderness. It includes the Falls of Hills Creek, Honeycomb Rocks, Tea Creek Back Country, the Highland Scenic Highway, and the lands that adjoin these areas.”
Frank says that the proposal for the monument began about 7 years ago but little progress was made so in an effort to get things moving again, the Friends of the Monument was recently formed.
“Friends of the Monument consists of local citizen supporters of the National Monument proposal” Frank explains. “We did this because we think there is an excellent opportunity to get President Obama to declare the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument before the end of his Administration with no congressional support.”
Frank says that so far the President has been reluctant to create a National Monument by Executive Action using the Antiquities Act authority, unless at least one congressional member from the local area asks him to. Frank is disappointed that even Democratic Senator Mansion has not done so, but feels there is a good chance Obama may still create the Monument.
Frank responds to some local objections that the Monument proposal is really a federal land grab which could expand even to private land.
“That sort of situation has never occurred previously, and under the present system it would just be a National Monument of 122 thousand acres” Frank responded. “We’ve heard a lot of concerns over the last 2 or 3 years from people that actually seem to be grounded in misinformation or mistrust. But, our proposal is for National Forest land to be declared the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.”
Well, what happens to hunting, fishing and camping on that land?
“If you like hunting, you’ll love the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument” says Frank. “If you like camping, you’ll love the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. Everything that we do, every way in which we interact with that land right now is included in that Monument proposal. The underlying management structure, the Forest Management Plan, remain in place after the National Monument is declared. “
What about the possibility that President Obama prohibits hunting, fishing and other recreational uses when he creates the Monument?
“Not going to happen” Frank says. “The draft proposal was put together by our group. It’s a citizen led initiative, and these things inevitably follow the citizens led proposal. So the proposal, again, is to maintain hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, wild herb gathering, and access to the Highland Scenic Highway.”
Frank says the proposal will only maintain current camping fees and will not add any new fees to use the Monument lands, and the National Forest Service will continue to administer the area, as they do in 7 other National monuments. Frank says you can learn more about the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, or even join the Friends of the monument at their website, www.friendsofthemonument.org.
Frank leaves us with his final reflections.
“One last thing” Frank says, “we moved here –my beautiful mate Bonnie and myself- 13 years ago. It was after that time that I learned that my great, great, great, great, great grandfather was given land in western Virginia for his service in the Revolutionary War. So I feel like this is my home, and this Monument proposal is the best economic development proposal that I’ve seen since we’ve been here, and yet it’s not even an economic development proposal. It’s really about celebrating our Appalachian heritage; it’s about protecting a special place.”