2018-01-17 / Opinions

Keep timbering out of state parks

There are some really bad ideas about the use of West Virginia’s public lands being kicked around right now. Our readers should be on alert about them, and any progress they might make in this current session of the West Virginia Legislature.

The worst idea, floated by Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and now pushed forward by Gov. Jim Justice, is to allow timber cutting in the state parks.

Thrasher has said the state’s timber industry isn’t making nearly the amount of money it could, and cutting timber in state parks is an option to look at. His assurances that this cutting would be selective are hollow. Anyone familiar with timbering -- on even the smallest scale -- knows what this would look like.

Timbering equipment is big, noisy and needs hefty roads to operate. We all see areas of Morgan County where private lands are timbered. The process is messy, even under the best of circumstances and on the flattest terrain. Last year, the Division of Forestry cut its staff of foresters who supervised timber operations. Allowing timber cutting in our state parks with little oversight is a disastrous idea. It would be bad for visitors, terrible for the terrain and would undercut the purpose of the state parks.

Maybe Thrasher and Justice have forgotten that many of our state parks were created in order to restore lands that were decimated by timbering in the age of West Virginia’s old forests. Those ancient forests were cleared in a matter of decades for private profit, causing erosion and flooding that was deadly for residents nearby. Our state parks are the crown jewels of our tourism industry, and are literally the picture of West Virginia to millions of people – people who come here, with their wallets, for tranquility and natural beauty

They can claim that timbering would benefit the parks with income, but that’s bull. More income would be lost than gained if they follow through with this brazenly short-sighted idea.

State leaders who want to build up the timber industry have millions of acres of private timberlands to concentrate on. We must tell legislators, Thrasher and Justice to keep their hands off our parks.

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