A Century of Change
At the turn of the 20th century, West Virginia’s vast forests seemed to offer an infinite supply of timber for the growing nation. Huge trees up to 12 feet in diameter were cut and milled. All that remained of these giant trees were piles of leftover branches called “slash” and a desolate landscape. The region became a tinder box where forest fires were rampant. After the fires, barren hillsides could not absorb rainfall which led to devastating floods.
To solve these issues, Congress passed the Weeks Act in 1911, which allowed the federal government to buy property and restore it to protect headwater streams. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation designating land purchased for the protection of the Monongahela River as Monongahela National Forest.
Since the creation of Monongahela National Forest, it has grown from 7,200 acres to over 900,000 acres. The Forest serves the public by providing recreational opportunities, forest products, and abundant clean water from healthy ecosystems.
Throughout the year ahead we invite you to enjoy your forest, share your stories, and learn with us as we look forward to the next 100 years.
Looking Back on the First 100 Years
Fire Towers have always been surrounded with mystique and romance. Nearly a half-century since the last fire tower was staffed on Monongahela National Forest, the vision of the lone sentinel perched high above the forest in a remote tower intently scanning the horizon for smoke still lingers.
April 28 marks the tragic anniversary of the death of a legendary figure in the history of the Monongahela National Forest. Forest Ranger Donald R. Gaudineer was an imposing figure. Standing six feet seven inches, the two hundred pound ranger towered above all others. He had many friends and was respected by both his co-workers and members of the public. His death remains one of the darkest days in the history of Monongahela National Forest. His heroic struggle to save his family from their burning home that evening in 1936 made him a legend.
Driving east of Elkins along what is today a quiet stretch of “Old Route 33,” motorists pass between columns of the stone portal known as the “Gateway to the Monongahela National Forest.” Built without fanfare and handcrafted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1934, this unique, one-of-a-kind, stone structure quickly became a prominent roadside landmark and recognizable Monongahela National Forest icon.
Discover your Forest
Check back here for upcoming centennial celebration events! If you or your organization would like to be involved please contact Brandy Harvey.
AFNHA AmeriCorps Serving as the Centennial Celebration Planner
USDA Forest Service
Monongahela National Forest