Pocahontas commission hears monument opponents
Marlinton, W.Va. – Several opponents of a proposal to create a national monument in an area including the Cranberry Wilderness and surrounding areas voiced their opinions during Tuesday evening’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting. During its June 5 meeting, the commission approved a resolution in support of the monument proposal.
Cully McCurdy, regional biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation, says monument approval bypasses the normal national forest planning process.
“I am hugely, hugely opposed to a national monument process,” he said. “With the Mon plan – when that revision took place – there were public meetings. There’s a process the Forest Service must go through, in which all user groups can come to the table and they can be heard. The national monument process – why I have so much heartburn with it is – this is a declaration that bypasses public input and the democratic process, to where people have input.”
Randy Sharp says the National Monument Act was not intended for large land parcels.
“I don’t know of anything back there that’s historic or prehistoric structures,” he said. “I don’t know how you can make a landmark out of a land grab. But, it will affect jobs, as far as people cutting timber, people sawing timber, people hauling timber.”
Jamie Kellison says there is no need for monument designation because the area is already protected.
“I don’t know why we’re even considering a national monument, when there’s already a wilderness, that’s protected,” he said. “It is something that needs protected. I agree 100-percent. But why back it with a national monument is what I’m wondering. Why expand over into Williams River?”
West Virginia Wilderness Coalition coordinator Mike Costello told monument opponents he appreciates their input and says the group wants to follow a middle-of-the-road approach, as it pursues monument designation.
“Throughout this process, you know, what we try to do is to come up with a proposal that has winners and very few losers,” he said. “You know, we might have a few ideological differences along the way, but, what we’re really trying to do is come up with something that is a kind of middle-of-the-road approach.”
Frost resident Allen Johnson says a monument would strengthen Pocahontas County’s economy and improve the quality of life.
“We have a very unique and special place here with what we have,” he said. “This would only enhance it. It’s like a branding. It’s not going to – just because we’re going to have more tourists dropping their dollars here – there might be more and the kind of tourists it would bring would strengthen our economy. But, it’s a quality of life situation.”
Commissioner David Fleming notes the June 5 resolution in support of the monument is contingent on no additional restrictions on hunting and fishing.
“I want to share a couple points from the resolution we adopted at the last meeting,” he said. “Whereas local traditions, such as hunting, fishing and gathering shall continue under national monument designation. So, our resolution, our support of this national monument, in writing, is that these things are allowed.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker, who opposed the June 5 resolution, tells Fleming that people move to Pocahontas County and then want to change it.
“There’s a lot of people that comes through this room that’s moved into this county,” he said. “Out of us three setting here, I both of you all moved into this county.”
“Is there a problem with that?” Fleming asked.
“No,” Walker responded. “But the reason people comes here is because it’s nice and you like it. Now, people comes in here and you continually want to add stuff and change stuff and make more laws.”
Monument opponents asked the commission to rescind the June 5 resolution. Fleming said he would study information provided by the opponents. Commissioner Martin Saffer states his continued support for the monument designation.
“I’m solidly behind the resolution adopted by the vote of the commission at our last meeting,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting prospect that the President of the United States would designate part of our county as a monument. I think it would be of a lasting, lasting benefit.”