|Monongahela National Forest|
Location of Monongahela National Forest
|Location||West Virginia, United States|
|Area||921,150 acres (3,727.8 km2)|
|Established||April 28, 1920|
|Named for||Monongahela River, in whose watershed much of the original forest was located|
|Website||Monongahela National Forest|
The Monongahela National Forest is a national forest located in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, USA. It protects over 921,000 acres (3,727 km2; 1,439 sq mi) of federally owned land within a 1,700,000 acres (6,880 km2; 2,656 sq mi) proclamation boundary that includes much of the Potomac Highlands Region and portions of 10 counties.
The Monongahela National Forest includes some major landform features such as the Allegheny Front and the western portion of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians. Within the forest are most of the highest mountain peaks in the state, including the highest, Spruce Knob (4,863 ft), also the highest point in the Alleghenies. Approximately 75 tree species are found in the forest. Almost all of the trees are a second growth forest, grown back after the land was heavily cutover around the start of the 20th century. Species for which the forest is important include red spruce (Picea rubens), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), and mountain ash (Sorbus americana).
The forest is administered from the main headquarters in Elkins, West Virginia, and four ranger districts. The forest has approximately 105 permanent employees, with this force augmented by senior citizens, temporary employees, and volunteers.
Monongahela National Forest is currently divided into four ranger districts. The Cheat-Potomac and Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs were formed by combining their namesake districts; in the merged districts, the offices for both original districts were retained.
The Monongahela National Forest was established following passage of the Weeks Act in 1911. This act authorized the purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management following the massive cutting of the eastern forests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1915, 7,200 acres (29 km2) were acquired to begin the forest, called the "Monongahela Purchase", and on April 28, 1920 it became the "Monongahela National Forest". By the end of 1924, the Monongahela National Forest had a total ownership of some 150,367 acres (609 km2).
Although white-tail deer never became completely extirpated from the Monongahela National Forest, from the 1890s to the 1920s their numbers throughout the state (as with most of the eastern US) were being officially reported as "almost zero". In January 1930, eight deer procured from Michigan were released into the forest near Parsons. From 1937 to 1939, a total of 17 more deer were released in the Flatrock-Roaring Plains area of the Forest. These releases served as the nucleus for reestablishing the healthy breeding populations of eastern West Virginia. (By the mid-1940s, deer were so numerous in the area that crop farmers had to patrol their fields by night.)
In 1943 and 1944, as part of the West Virginia Maneuver Area, the U.S. Army used parts of the Monongahela National Forest as a practice artillery and mortar range and maneuver area before troops were sent to Europe to fight in World War II. Artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice are still occasionally found there today. Seneca Rocks and other area cliffs were also used for assault climbing instruction. This was the Army's only low-altitude climbing school.
The fisher (Martes pennanti), believed to have been exterminated in the state by 1912, was reintroduced during the winter of 1969. At that time 23 fishers were translocated from New Hampshire to two sites within boundaries of the Monongahela National Forest (at Canaan Mountain in Tucker County and Cranberry Glades in Pocahontas County).[needs update]
The Monongahela National Forest encompasses most of the southern third of the Allegheny Mountains range (a section of the vast Appalachian Mountains range) and is entirely within the state of West Virginia. Elevations within the Monongahela National Forest range from about 900 feet (270 m) at Petersburg to 4,863 feet (1,482 m) at Spruce Knob. A rain shadow effect caused by slopes of the Allegheny Front results in 60 inches (1,500 mm) of annual precipitation on the west side and about half that on the east side.
Headwaters of six major river systems are located within the forest: Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk, Tygart, and Gauley. Twelve rivers are currently under study for possible inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The forest is noted for its rugged landscape, views, blueberry thickets, highland bogs and "sods", and open areas with exposed rocks. In addition to the second-growth forest trees, the wide range of botanical species found includes rhododendron, laurel on the moist west side of the Allegheny Front, and cactus and endemic shale barren species on the drier eastern slopes.
There are 230 known species of birds inhabiting the Monongahela National Forest: 159 are known to breed there, 89 are Neotropical migrants; 71 transit the forest during migration, but do not breed there, and 17 non-breeding species are Neotropical. The Brooks Bird Club (BBC) conducts an annual bird banding and survey project in the vicinity of Dolly Sods Scenic Area during migration (August - September). The forest provides habitat for 9 federally listed endangered or threatened species: 2 bird species, 2 bat species, 1 subspecies of flying squirrel, 1 salamander species, and 3 plant species. Fifty other species of rare/sensitive plants and animals also occur in the forest.
Larger animals and game species found in the forest include black bear, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, rabbits, snowshoe hare, woodcock, and grouse. Limited waterfowl habitat exists in certain places. Furbearers include beaver, red and gray fox, bobcat, fisher, river otter, raccoon and mink. Other hunted species include coyotes, skunks, opossums, woodchucks, crows, and weasels. There are 12 species of game (pan) fish and 60 species of nongame or forage fish. Some 90% of the trout waters of West Virginia are within the forest.
The Monongahela National Forest is a recreation destination and tourist attraction, hosting approximately 3 million visitors annually. The backwoods road and trail system is used for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding. There are many miles of railroad grades that are a link in the recreation use of the forest. (The longest is the Glady to Durbin West Fork Railroad Trail which is 23 miles (37 km) long.) Recreation ranges from self-reliant treks in the wildernesses and backcountry areas, to the challenges of rock climbing, to traditional developed site camping.Canoeing, hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing are also common uses.
The following is a list of campgrounds in the forest:
The forest administration maintains wildlife and timber programs aimed at managing a mix of tree species and ages. About 81 percent of the total forest area is closed canopy forest over 60 years of age. The tree species most valuable for timber and for wildlife food in the Monongahela National Forest are black cherry and oaks. The forest's commercial timber sale program averages 30 mbf (thousand board feet) of timber sold per year with a yearly average value of $7.5 million. A variety of cutting techniques are used, from cutting of single trees to clearcutting blocks up to 25 acres (100,000 m2) in size. Regeneration cuts (clearcuts or other treatments designed to start a new timber stand) occur on approximately 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) yearly out of the more than 909,000 acres (3,680 km2) forest total.
Receipts for timber, grazing, land uses, minerals, and recreation use averaged $4,840,466 annually between FY92 and FY96, and 25% of that (an average of $1,210,116 per year) was returned to counties that include Monongahela National Forest lands. This money is intended for use by local schools and for roads. The remaining 75% each year is returned to the U.S. Treasury.
Smoke Hole Canyon from atop Cave Mountain