Generally, the public misunderstands the relationship between individual property rights and government owned national forests and monuments. This is the result of a confusing area of law, combined with an increasing number of national forest proclamations and national monument designations. For example, President Obama has designated eleven national monuments during his term of office and enlarged two. 1 Out of all the national monuments, twelve have been converted from national forests. 2 National forests are a great source of recreation as well as resources. Therefore, it is common to designate areas within national forests as national monuments to immortalize the recreational and resource capacity.
Due to West Virginia’s mountainous terrain and geography, it is no wonder that over one million acres of the state lie within national forests. 3 However, no national monuments currently exist within the state’s vast quantities of national forest land. Currently, a proposal to create the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is in the works. The proposed monument area consists of over 120,000 acres in the southern Monongahela National Forest, but the boundary has yet to be finalized. 4 As to be expected, the proposed monument has met some resistance from local residents. 5 One common concern West Virginia residents share, as well as those outside the state with interest in national monument property, is the continued use of their property rights.