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Friends of Blackwater push back on prospect of timbering in state parks

By RICK STEELHAMMER

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A suggestion by state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher that logging be allowed in West Virginia’s state parks to produce revenue for needed repairs and improvements has drawn fire from the conservation group Friends of Blackwater.

“State parks are beloved by the people of West Virginia,” Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater’s executive director, said Friday. “People who come to the parks don’t want to see logging taking place, and West Virginia code says you can’t log in state parks, except to clear land to build something. You would have to have the Legislature change the code to allow this to happen.”

“If we’re really going to ramp up tourism, which is really a goal of this governor, we want to have a nice product when people come to visit,” Thrasher said last week during the dedication of a new Division of Forestry building in Buckhannon, according to a MetroNews account of the event.

“Our state parks are exquisite,” Thrasher said, “but, boy, do they need some TLC.”

The best way to pay for repairs, maintenance and improvements, he said, would be to permit timbering in state parks “on a very, very limited basis,” according to the MetroNews account.

“It’s great for wildlife, it will improve the parks, and the beautiful thing about it is, all that money goes right back into the parks to fix up these lodges and cabins,” Thrasher was quoted as saying. “I think it’s a no-brainer. I think it makes great sense.”

Thrasher estimated that $40 million to $50 million could be raised by timbering on state park land, which he said contains tens of thousands of acres of “some of the finest timber anywhere.”

While timber sales are held on managed timber land at all West Virginia state forests, with the exception of Kanawha State Forest, logging does not take place in West Virginia state parks.

A bid to change that policy “is not the Christmas present we were expecting from the governor,” Rodd said. “We would like him to take it back. We have been asking people to call the governor and express their concerns.”

Reach Rick Steelhammer at [email protected], 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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