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PNS Daily Newscast - September 24 


The ground rules seem to have been set concerning the sexual assault allegations against nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: we will take you to a state where more than 60 thousand kids are chronically absent; plus the rural digital divide a two-fold problem for Kentucky.

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Birthplace of Rivers Potentially Part of WV Transformation

Supporters say a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument - including the Cranberry Glades - would mean more jobs at a time when West Virginia needs them. (Mike Costello)
Supporters say a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument - including the Cranberry Glades - would mean more jobs at a time when West Virginia needs them. (Mike Costello)
June 13, 2016

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - A Birthplace of Rivers National Monument could boost tourism and help the state replace losses in the coal and gas industries, according to supporters.

As West Virginia wrestles with the fallout of declines in fossil-fuel prices, folks such as Gil Willis, vice president of the Pocahontas County Tourism Board, are hoping to draw more visitors to natural attractions here.

Willis says tourism jobs may not pay what mining or drilling work does. But he says they're more reliable and won't go away with the next bust.

"Tourism is not going to save the state," says Willis. "But as long as we take care of this resource that we have, it will keep giving back forever. This is the gift that keeps giving."

A recent report from the group Small Business Majority found national monuments contributed up to a $150 million a year to local economies. Some oppose expanding federal land protections on principle. But Willis says the Birthplace of Rivers Monument would be made up of land the government already owns.

"Virginia, Ohio, Maryland do not have these beautiful resources," he says. "People will come to this state forever, and build second homes, and spend money."

More than 200 area small business owners and community officials have signed on to the Birthplace of Rivers push. Willis says according to state figures, tourism already brings $140 million a year to Pocahontas County. But he says most of that is tied to skiing at Snowshoe, and they want to bring more folks in during the warm months.

"Tourism is really driving the economy, but we have a lopsided industry here," he says. "We're very heavy in the winter. The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument would be a great addition."

Conservation advocates from West Virginia and other states will be in Washington this week to lobby for more protected areas, including what would be the state's first national monument.

But they say time is short, given Congress' election-year calendar and the end of the presidential term.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV