by Gene Fisher
As I reflect upon this property of 163 acres, known to me all my life as “North River,” it causes me to pause and think of my grandparents and the other founding members of the Forest and Stream Protective Association.
- Why did they purchase a piece of property located hours away from Keyser, West Virginia in 1926?
- What caused them to form an organization to protect the forests, streams and wildlife of West Virginia?
- And finally, what are our responsibilities as third and fourth generation members/owners of this precious living land?
At the turn of the century, 1900, most of West Virginia was stripped of its forests, leaving the land naked and the streams polluted. My mother’s home, in Hacker Valley, West Virginia had its economy ruined as all the trees were gone. Pictures of Cass, West Virginia show the stump-covered mountains. It is my belief that our founding fathers wanted to do something constructive to preserve the lands and wildlife that had been destroyed in their beloved State.
They formed the Forest and Stream Protective Association and included in the Constitution and By-Laws the following statement:
“The object of the Association is to propagate and preserve fish and game and all other wildlife; to protect all forests and streams within the State of West Virginia.” (Article I, Section 2)
Maintaining ownership during the depression of the early 1930’s is an indicator of their resolve. For the past several years, with the growing concerns of urban sprawl and development, the Association has discussed the purpose stated in our by-laws and we have become more concerned about the future of the Association, but more particularly about the future of the land.
Through these discussions we have resolved to maintain the original purpose and desires of our founding fathers, and for this reason have entered into a conservation easement agreement, so that this land will be protected and remain as our founding members remember it, or would have wanted it to remain. Their reasons for maintaining the land in its present state go far beyond the reasons stated in the easement document.
To put in words what I feel about this land is next to impossible, but I will try. The words in the song made popular by John Denver, “Almost Heaven,” describe for me this land of the Forest and Stream Protective Association. The heritage and spirits of my grandmother and grandfather and the caring and love shown for this land by my father are present here. Many hours and days have been spent here with family. I was first brought to North River before I could walk. Through the years I have been taught many lessons of life by my family and by nature in this place. This land has humbled me, showing me my relative insignificance in relation to our natural environment.
As Chief Seattle once said, “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” We are only caretakers as we journey through this life. If the Association or anyone would ever question why our founding members and the present members desired to keep this property in its natural state, I ask one thing. I ask that the discussions take place at North River. Stand on the ground, wade in its waters, listen to its sounds, smell its air, watch the kingfisher, the tiny wren, the chipmunk, watch the passing of the seasons and listen … listen to the land talk to you in its own language. Our feeble words can never express the message of this land and its spirit. When you spend time with this land and its heritage, it will heal, focus, and develop a relationship with you.
My desire is that the conservation easement attached to this property will allow future generations to learn to also be humbled by this land and that it will continue to be a place where we bond with family, friends, and nature as in the past.
“Almost heaven,” I believe it is.