Conservation groups alarmed at bill to log state parks

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Earlier this week, a bill to allow commercial logging in West Virginia’s State Parks, Senate Bill 270, was introduced at the request of Governor Justice. This action prompted conservation groups across the state to launch a united effort to oppose lifting the over 80-year ban on logging in West Virginia State Parks. These groups so far include the WV Highlands Conservancy, WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, Friends of Blackwater, WV Rivers Coalition, WV Environmental Council, Kanawha Forest Coalition, West Virginia Scenic Trails Association, Mountain Lakes Preservation Association, and West Virginians for Public Lands.

“Our state park system is in distress. But opening them up to logging is worse than any maintenance backlog,” said Jim Waggy of the Kanawha Forest Coalition. “We stand to degrade our Wild and Wonderful brand, and make people think twice about visiting our state parks. They come here for the beauty of the forests and outdoor recreation, not to hear chainsaws and dodge logging trucks.”

“You don’t save a forest by cutting it down,” said Jim Kotcon of the WV Sierra Club, responding to a statement from Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher that logging state parks would improve forest health. “West Virginia’s State Parks were founded in the 1920’s after we realized the havoc logging could do to our forests. The mature forests we enjoy in our parks today are there because of the foresight of those who have come before us. Let us hope the governor will have the foresight to find other solutions.”

“We agree with the Governor that our state park system could use more funding. However, opening them to commercial logging is not the way to go about it,” said Angie Rosser of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We look forward to discussing other ways to revive our state parks that preserve their unique attractions, such as rare old-growth forests.”

In response to SB270 the conservation groups have formed a campaign to Save Our State Parks, dubbed “SOS Parks.” For more information or to get involved, contact info@wvpubliclands.org.