5 Reasons This Should Be the Next National Monument

Our public lands are under threat. From the takeover of Malheur National Refuge, to land seizures out west, to gas pipelines fragmenting the east, it’s been a rough couple of years.

That’s why it’s exciting to see new National Monuments like Brown’s Canyon being designated. They represent some of our most important natural and historical sites in the country. A protected area similar to a National Park, a National Monument is created by the President or Congress through the Antiquities Act, and gives stronger protection to federal public lands.

Here’s why West Virginia’s Birthplace of Rivers should be the 118th National Monument.

1. It’s time to celebrate the wild, wild east

It’s time we helped Washington, DC recognize the east’s wild heritage by naming Birthplace of Rivers a National Monument. Photo by Confluence via Flickr Creative Commons
Most people picture America’s wild lands in the expanses of the west, but only hours from the nation’s capital sits the Birthplace of Rivers. Named for the six rivers spawned within its borders – the Cranberry, Cherry, Gauley, Elk, Williams and Greenbrier – the area is the epitome of the eastern wilderness.

Its hundreds of miles of trails offer dramatic vistas such as the iconic tumbling waterfalls of the Falls of Hills Creek, the tundra-like bogs of Cranberry Glades, and the windswept ridges and primeval forests of Cranberry Wilderness. Named “One of America’s Top 5 Wilderness Spots” by Yahoo! Travel and the “Wildest Wilderness in the Southeast” by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, Cranberry Wilderness is also the largest Forest Service wilderness east of the Mississippi.

The National Wildlife Federation’s affiliate in the state, West Virginia Rivers Coalition is at the center of a coalition of nonprofits, businesses, and sportsmen dedicated to protect that wild legacy. It’s that effort that is making sure the wild history, wild heritage, and wild mountain culture of West Virginia is at the heart of the Birthplace designation.

2. It’s about the wildlife

West Virginia’s wide array of wildlife are on display in the Birthplace of Rivers. The area’s backcountry trails are full of lush greens, wildflowers, and hidden wildlife, all offering great opportunities for photographers.

When black bears were almost driven out of West Virginia, part of the area was designated a sanctuary. Black bear are now plentiful in the forest, along with deer, grouse, turkey, and fox. But it’s the lesser-sighted wildlife that makes this area so special.

The winding brooks and rivers of the area are prime habitat for wildlife such as fishers. Photo by http://www.ForestWander.com via Wikimedia Commons
While fishers may have disappeared from West Virginia and Pennsylvania by the early 1900s, it was this site’s wildness that lead West Virginia Division of Wildlife Resources to reintroduce 23 fishers in its boundaries.

The area also boasts the southern-most breeding spot for northern breeding birds like the purple finch and the northern waterthrush. Perhaps you’ll even be stalked by the ghost of the North American cougar. Despite unconfirmed sightings in West Virginia, the last officially confirmed record of cougar tracks in the state were made in 1936 by a Smithsonian worker, near Cranberry Glades in the Birthplace of Rivers.

3. It’s the perfect Mother’s Day gift

Birthplace of Rivers is 122,320 acres with few roads and few signs of humanity. Its wildness makes it the perfect source of recreation and adventures for downstream communities. National Monument designation would keep that land open for us — whether hiker, hunter, or angler — but closed to harmful development. What better way to honor your mother than to support clean water and healthy lands: a birthplace for future generations.

4. It’s monumental

Birthplace of Rivers is an ideal candidate for National Monument designation: historic, cultural, scenic, of geologic and scientific value, and a showcase of world-class trout streams and remote hunting areas where sportsmen must ride horseback to reach. That’s why the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliate, West Virginia Rivers Coalition are championing the designation of the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.

View of Hills Creek. Photo by RonEskins via Flickr Creative Commons
It harkens back to our frontier heritage; a time we must remember to tell the true story of conservation in the east. By protecting the east’s most wild places, we’ll do just that.

5. It’s up to you (and those guys in Washington)

Here are some ways you can help make Birthplace of Rivers the 118th National Monument:

  • Contact your elected officials, and voice your support to those in West Virginia
  • Share information about Birthplace of Rivers National Monument with your friends
  • Visit http://www.wvrivers.org/ProtectingHeadwaters/BirthplaceOfRivers to learn more and take action

Join NWF  Help the National Wildlife Federation continue speaking out for important public lands such as the Birthplace of Rivers