The almost one million acre Monongahela National Forest is West Virginia's pristine treasure, saved from the Bush-era assault on national lands being opened for development.

Now, more than 400 acres of red spruce and northern hardwood forest bordering the Roaring Plains West Wilderness Area have been added to the forest.

The property, located on a slope of Mount Porte Crayon at elevations reaching 4,600 feet, was once owned by Mead-Westvaco, and was later acquired by The Nature Conservancy from its most recent owner, Thunderstruck Conservation LLC.

The U.S. Forest Service is using money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, comprised mainly of fees charged to offshore oil and gas drillers, to buy 300 acres of the tract.

The remaining 115 acres will be bought through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel Conservation Fund.

The land transfer culminates a 10-year Nature Conservancy project aimed at protecting nearly 2,000 acres of former timber company land adjacent to the Roaring Plans and Dolly Sods wilderness areas.

Plans call for a final 176-acre tract remaining in Nature Conservancy ownership to also be transferred to the Monongahela National Forest as funds become available.

"Protecting more than 400 acres of high elevation is important in its own right, but completing the entire project will be a significant conservation achievement for everyone who values West Virginia's wild places," said Rodney Bartgis, state director for The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. In 2011, The Nature Conservancy helped the Forest Service buy 1,100 acres of the former timber company tract. In 2008, the conservancy acquired a conservation easement from Thunderstruck to protect 275 acres of adjacent land that included several ecologically significant caves, including one containing the fossilized skulls and skeletons of an elk and a bison. Both species have been extinct in West Virginia since the 1800s.

The Monongahela National Forest was established following passage of the 1911 Weeks Act. This Act authorized the federal purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management following massive cutting of the Eastern forests in the late 1800's and at the turn of the century.

In 1915 7,200 acres in the mountains of West Virginia near Parsons were acquired by the federal government, and called the Monongahela Purchase. On April 28, 1920 the Monongahela National Forest was officially designated, incorporating the original purchase tract.

Over the years additional lands have been acquired within the 1.7 million-acre proclamation boundary of the Forest. Today the Forest occupies more than 919,000 acres in 10 counties in the highlands of the State. SAVING THE FOREST

"NO TREE LEFT BEHIND" - Bush Opens Mon National Forest For Development

"THE MON" - Jerked From The Jaws

A LANDMARK DAY - Obama Signs To Protect 2 Million Wilderness Acres

WEST VIRGINIAN'S WHO LOVE OUR MOUNTAINS - 37,000 Mon Forest Acres Fully Protected

SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - The Great Power Has Gifted, Can We Save Our Mountains?

Hur Herald ©from Sunny Cal
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