Recently, Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher attended the opening of the new Region 3 West Virginia Division of Forestry headquarters at its Fifth Street location, in Buckhannon.
Gov. Jim Justice is placing a new emphasis on forestry and said he is happy to have a strong businessman like Thrasher in charge of the new push to help West Virginia’s economy by boosting the forestry industry statewide.
“Truth of the matter: forestry has been underutilized as an industry in our state for a long time. We need to increase the harvest of trees in our state forests and they should be harvested to keep them healthy, to keep wildlife healthy, to keep oxygen absorption up,” said Thrasher.
Building up both the Division of Forestry and the timber industry in the state isn’t just for the state economy, but it also has brought forestry employees, who were laid off in recent years, back to work as the number of local foresters around the state increases.
Thrasher, estimated that in the past, timber cutting on state property has generated around $2 million in revenue per year. He speculated that the amount could be higher, and perhaps closer to $ 20 Million a year, with 75 percent of that going to the state’s general fund and the remaining 25 percent going to the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Thrasher also said he believes timbering can be increased by cuttings in old state park forest sections, improving the land for wildlife, while generating revenues that can be earmarked and turned into further funds for state park improvement, thus increasing tourism in the state and addressing one of Justice’s goals.
The new director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry, Barry Cook, was also in attendance at the grand opening of the Region 3 headquarters.
“I am pleased to see the governor embracing additional economic opportunities in the timber industry and also for the benefit of the individual forest landowners in West Virginia,” Cook said.
“To help local landowners, we have divided the state into six regions, so we can better serve local folks who need assistance from our foresters in each of the new regions to assist them with better managing their properties for future revenues from timbering and for their own enjoyment. A healthy forest is a valuable thing.”
John Cobb, a Lewis county landowner with 350 acres, said he and his local forester, Travis Miller, who in 2015 put together a Timberland Management plan for him, has benefited from guidance provided by the Division of Forestry.
Cobb’s forester has allowed him to understand and improve his property, making it better from the standpoint of, water quality, tree health, and for future commercial cutting and logging revenues, according to Cobb. He said it has really improved the amount of wildlife on his land with the completion of a the 10-acre clear cut this year, which provided revenue and support for the U. S. Department of Agriculture that also supported the timber cutting on his land.
“The benefits a landowner can get by working with the West Virginia Division of Forestry is one of the best kept secrets in West Virginia,” Cobb said. “At no cost to forest owners, under the direction of their forester, they can work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the USDA and get financial help for work to improve their property’s value. More West Virginian’s need to contact their local forester and learn how they can benefit.”
With the new reorganization of forestry into six regions, there are now seven foresters assigned to the eight counties that make up the new Region 3: Lewis, Braxton, Upshur, Webster, Clay, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Nicholas counties.
Thrasher concluded by saying, “Truth of the matter, forestry has been underutilized as an industry in our state for a long time. We have not begun to harvest the trees that our forests should be harvested at to keep them healthy, to keep wildlife healthy, to keep oxygen absorption up.”