Public debates national monument at county commission meeting
Marlinton, W.Va. – During the Pocahontas County Commission meeting on January 3, nearly a hundred people crowded into the courtroom to comment on a proposed national monument designation for the Cranberry Wilderness and surrounding areas.
Public comments were evenly divided.
Mike Costello, with the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, said the designation would give Pocahontas County publicity, promote tourism and preserve the area.
Beckwith Lumber owner Ralph Beckwith said the people of Pocahontas County had protected the area and that more government control and regulation was not needed.
Wildlife sanctuary operator Joel Rosenthal said the area now encompassed by the Cranberry Wilderness had been devastated by logging in the early 20th century, prior to being sold to the federal government. Rosenthal said the government was responsible for preserving the natural character of Pocahontas County.
Several speakers spoke in favor of the designation to promote tourism and preserve the area. Several speakers expressed concern that the designation would lead to restrictions on hunting, camping and other activities.
Commissioner Jamie Walker gives his thoughts.
“The big issue here – are we going to allow hunting, are we going to allow fishing?” he said. “Yeah, there’s a few of these monuments that I’ve looked up that allows it. But there’s very few of them that allows it freely, like it is now. They either charge you for it; they limit you to where you can hunt; they limit you to how long you can hunt; or they limit you to how much game or fish you can take from that area. One of them said – yeah, we allow fishing – but guess what? You’re allowed one fish a day. How many of you can feed your families on one fish a day?”
Commission president Dolan Irvine expresses concern with restrictions on logging.
“The school system gets money from the timber sales,” he said. “If there’s no timber sales, I’m assuming, probably, there wouldn’t be no money. So,if we cut out the timber sales from probably the best timber area in Pocahontas County, those revenues, in my opinion, have to go down. When those revenues go down, the money for the school system has to go down.”
Commissioner David Fleming explains why he’s changing his previous vote in support of the resolution.
“I think the resolution, as we wrote, was a good attempt based on the information we had at the time,” he said. “I think it captures a lot of what we want, but it does lack knowledge of what isn’t known. Several people today have said, ‘we don’t know what to expect.’ In this meeting today, I’ve gone back and forth in my own mind at least a number of times. So, I just want you to know that. It’s not something like, ‘I just want to push it through and get it done with.’ That’s why we wrote the letter to ask more questions because you were asking questions and we didn’t have the answers. And we need the answers.”
Fleming moved to rescind the previous resolution in support of the national monument proposal. Walker seconded and the commission voted 3-0 to rescind the resolution.
To see a photo gallery from last Thursday’s county commission national monument debate, see alleghenymountainradio.org.