It has come to my attention that governor Justice has proposed the selective harvesting of trees in West Virginia State parks via proposed Senate Bill 270. This is a hard concept for me to fathom as it makes little sense both on the surface and after close consideration. One of the few reasons people come to our state is to visit our wonderful state parks and enjoy the old mature forest that it took us eighty years to develop. Nobody comes to see bare hillsides and muddy logging roads cut into once-tranquil forests. Folks come to our state to walk in our pristine parks and enjoy nature’s splendor. We have some of the most beautiful parks in the world! When I go for a hike, I want to see nature the way it was seen before man touched it.
Some people think, and I will add falsely, that timber can be removed from a forest without damaging the environment. Let me walk you through the process:
First, if you think fairies come in and gently lift the trees out of the forest, you are sadly mistaken. It takes large equipment (skidders, harvesters, forwarders, and loaders), which require the cutting of logging roads. This process destroys the soil and the erosion-controlling decaying leaves and humus on the forest’s floor. I am sure there are folks who might think that the beautiful sound of a chain saw in the woods is a welcome addition to nature, but I beg to differ. I would rather hear the rustle of leaves as a squirrel scampers away or the call of a bird I do not recognize.
Second, the proposed bill allows for much more destruction than it first sounds like. The proposed limit on tree collection is an average of 4 trees per acre per track of land up to half of the merchantable timber per acre. Although this does not sound like a lot, it is if you adjust the track size. In theory, the proposed law would allow for 40,000 trees to be removed from a 10,000-acre state park (like Watoga state park) so long as you called it one track. Most of these trees would likely be taken from one area as long as they did not go above the 50% mark on any one acre. The simple reason for this is that it would be the most efficient (and profitable) for the timber companies and the statute would allow it.
Proponents of the proposed bill have argued that selectively timbering the parks will make the forest healthier by reducing the wildfire risk and that the revenue from the timber will be used to address a maintenance backlog, improving the parks overall.
First, the current risk of a wildfire damaging one of our state parks is statistically so low, that it had never been brought to the public as a risk until this proposed legislation. It is nearly impossible to find record of any wildfires that have damaged any of our parks in the last seventy-five years, and the small fires did exist damaged far less than this proposed bill threatens to.
Second, the harvesting of our old-growth forest to fund park maintenance and man-made park structures forces us into a choice that most of us would not make. The entire point of a park is to preserve a part of nature. The buildings and required maintenance of park facilities serve to enrich, add to, and facilitate the enjoyment of nature. If we chose to put the park facilities ahead of the parks themselves, we’ve effectively defeated the main purpose of the parks, the enjoyment of nature. People don’t come to West Virginia to look at our beautiful park buildings, they come to enjoy our beautiful parks.
Our parks were preserved and gifted to us by those that came before us in an act of great foresight. To throw this gift away would leave us with nothing beautiful for us to give to the generations that follow. This is our home and we have a chance to protect it.
So, if you are one of the people who enjoy a peaceful walk in the park, I suggest that you call your representative as soon as you can get to a phone! Show them that we care about our natural places and preserving them for ourselves and generations to come.
If you want to contact someone who is instrumental in this issue it would be;
Mark Maynard of Wayne county
304-357-7808 Capital phone
304-272-3030 Business phone