Legislation allowing timbering in state parks sparks debate

GRAFTON—After the introduction of proposed legislation that would allow commercial logging in West Virginia State Parks, many residents of West Virginia have concerns about the bill.

Senate Bill 270, was introduced at the request of Governor Jim Justice, and sponsored by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, as well as Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.

The proposed bill would lift a ban on state park timbering that has been in effect since 1931.

The purpose of the bill is to authorize the Director of the Division of Natural Resources to implement a sound silvicultural management plan for state park lands, which may include the harvesting of timber, provided that certain requirements are satisfied.

The bill states that any timber harvesting sale would not exceed the average of four trees per acre per tract. Only trees with a circumference of at least sixteen inches based on the diameter at breast height, may be harvested.

Proceeds from any sale of timber located on state park lands will be paid to the State Treasurer, credited to the division, and used exclusively for the purposes of maintaining, improving and operating state parks.

Many residents in West Virginia have their opinions on the proposed bill and have taken to Facebook, and other social media forums to share their views.

One group opposing the bill is the Kanawha Forest Coalition. The group has made a video that has been shared locally urging residents to call contact Governor Justice.

The coalition stated, State Parks represent only one half of one percent of WV. These treasures have been protected from logging for over 80 years (after the widespread destruction wrought by clear-cuts and subsequent floods and slash fires in the early 20th century) and in that time have grown into beautiful, mature forests, as well as key drivers of our growing tourism economy.

Bulldozing logging roads, fouling streams with silt and mud, disturbing the peace with the whine of chainsaws and machinery and cutting down the very forests that make our state parks so special is not way to entice visitors to return, the group voiced.

The coalition continued, Governor Justice has made growing our tourism economy a primary goal of his administration, yet this proposal flies in the face of everything he claims to be working for.

They went on to tell readers that the most important thing you can do to protect our State Parks is to contact Governor Justice at (304) 558-2000 or 1(888)438-2731 and tell him that you oppose SB270 and you do not want logging in our State Parks.

Another group on Facebook called Sunday Hunting in West Virginia supports Senate Bill 270.

According to group, state parks are in need of 50 million dollars for infrastructure deficiencies. The state park’s forests are at old growth, which is not good for wildlife. Wildlife prospers with a diverse forests.

They stated that Senate bill 270 is a chance to create a diverse forest while funding our state parks. SB 270 allows for select timbering on our six largest state parks.

One third of revenues will be held back to allow for reseeding wildlife areas accessed via cinder trails. Wildlife viewing will be possible because there will be wildlife where there currently is minimal. No view sheds or areas of higher human usage will be logged, according to Sunday Hunting in West Virginia.

Currently, 17 of 25 eastern states already manage timber on state parks. We need to find ways to support our parks. If not, we run the risks of public jewels being lost. This is a responsible, highly regulated opportunity to reinvest in our parks, they commented.

The group closed by urging readers to call members of the Senate Natural Resource Committee, Senate Finance and the Governors office at 304-558-2000 in support of SB270.