Wild Monongahela Act Introduced in Congress
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by Michael Costello, WV Wilderness Coalition |
The first West Virginia Wilderness Bill in 25 years protects some 47,000 acres, but is mared by some glaring omissions.
On January 23rd, West Virginia’s last remaining wild places received a tremendous boost as all five members of the state’s Congressional Delegation came together to sponsor the Wild Monongahela Act, in a truly historic effort to safeguard several areas within with Monongahela National Forest.
“As West Virginians, we are intimately connected to our land,” Representative Nick Rahall, II said as he introduced the first legislation to permanently protect the Mon in a quarter-century. “We know that we will be judged by future generations on our stewardship of this land that is West Virginia.”
With ongoing threats of logging, industrial energy development and road building looming over the most special of our remaining wild places, the Wild Monongahela Act aims to expand the Cranberry, Dolly Sods, and Otter Creek Wilderness areas while Cheat Mountain, Big Draft, Spice Run and Roaring Plains West would be newly designated, permanently protected wilderness.
The culmination of grassroots efforts to protect these areas is something all West Virginians should be proud of. Since this citizen-driven initiative began, the diversity within the wilderness movement solidified over time. Sporting organizations, including several chapters of Trout Unlimited, joined hundreds of West Virginia businesses and organizations to recognize the benefits of additional wilderness on the Mon. Many faith-based groups and congregations showed support alongside well-respected labor groups and dozens of municipal and county governing bodies. Over time, the unified voice for additional wilderness gained strength and clarity, sending a message to Congress that our Delegation has responded to with the future of the state’s special wild places in mind.
However, this landmark legislation represents a significant compromise as the bill has several glaring omissions. At just over 47,000 acres, the legislation represents around one-third of the Citizen’s Wilderness Proposal, which received broad-based public support throughout the state.
“We have a long, proud tradition of protecting our state’s wild and wonderful forests and we owe a great debt of gratitude to our Congressional delegation for coming together to protect these special places,” said Dave Saville, Coordinator of the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition. “While we support this new legislation, we are deeply disappointed that special areas like Seneca Creek, Roaring Plains East and North and the East Fork of the Greenbrier Areas have been left out of this proposal. These special places can’t wait another 25 years for protection and we hope that the delegation will amend their proposal to include these places before the bill passes.”
Now is the time to let Congress know that, while their efforts are appreciated, some of the most special of our remaining wild places can’t afford to be denied legislative protection. The pristine waters found in Seneca Creek and East Fork of Greenbrier, and the unparalleled scenery and recreation opportunities found in Roaring Plains North and East face an uncertain future that lies in the hands of our Representatives and are currently slated to remain unprotected. We must seize this incredible opportunity to protect these areas for future generations of West Virginians and visitors to forever enjoy.