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Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area

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What is the purpose of the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area?


For centuries, the forests of the Appalachian Mountains have sustained local settlers, provided raw materials for America's economic expansion, and inspired visitors.  The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) tells the story of this forest legacy and the mountain people who forged it. 

The AFNHA attracts visitors to discover the rich forest heritage of the highlands of West Virginia and western Maryland. Visitors explore thematic trails leading them to recreation, learning, entertainment, and appreciation experiences targeted to their own interests.

Communities benefit from the AFNHA in several ways. Economic markets increase for local events and attractions, tourist services, forest industry products and the arts. Communities grow stronger through local participation and regional networking. The entire region works with a shared approach to use, conservation, and appreciation of our multi-faceted forest.

Mission and Goals

The AFNHA mission is to work locally to conserve, develop, interpret, and promote a regional network of forest-based resources and experiences in the highlands of West Virginia and Maryland for the enjoyment and appreciation of residents and visitors in order to enhance economic and community development.

The four primary goals are to:

Core Values
History of the AFNHA

An initiative of West Virginia University's Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences and the WVU Extension Service, an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area was originally funded by a USDA "Fund for Rural America" grant. It was coordinated by a project team from West Virginia University (WVU) and Canaan Valley Institute (CVI), with active partnership from state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and communities throughout the area.

After its October 2001 inception, the AFHA project convened large-group stakeholder meetings and numerous task group sessions. A broad range of participants with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints participated to guide the project's course. The work of building a consistent theme and integrated network went hand-in-hand with communities committing to local projects. This grassroots approach helped ensure local community successes and balanced direction.

The initial AFHA grant expired in the fall of 2005. In order to carry on these efforts beyond the initial grant, a non-profit organization called Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, Inc. was created to assume responsibility for the future. A non-profit Governing Council representing communities, interest groups, and involved stakeholders and partners defined a vision and a plan for the project. Task groups were active on a number of fronts: identifying assets, interpretation, business development, communications, marketing, and organization. Three pilot communities -- Webster County, WV, Randolph County, WV and Garrett County, MD -- implemented projects in model communities.

The Stakeholders participating agreed on Core Values emphasizing voluntary partnerships from a broad range of interest groups, balanced interpretation, forest sustainability for industry, communities, and ecosystems, working forests and cultural heritage tourism as components of economic development, and that AFHA was not a land management organization. The enthusiasm and participation level in the existing AFHA project indicated the success of this collaborative approach respecting diverse points-of-view.


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