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Timber industry, Tomblin dispute reason for forestry layoffs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia timber industry is blaming Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for state Division of Forestry layoffs that affect 37 employees who battle wildfires and monitor logging sites.

Tomblin aides counter that the industry refuses to support a severance tax rate that’s necessary to keep the foresters on the state payroll.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Forestry Association, which represents logging operators and timber owners, alleged Tomblin could have shifted funds from discretionary accounts to save the state foresters’ jobs.

“The governor’s willingness to play politics with the lives of these individuals and the safety of the citizens of West Virginia is deeply troubling,” said Frank Stewart, president of the forestry association.

 Earlier this week, Tomblin offered to call off the layoffs, provided the timber industry would support a severance tax that fully funded the Division of Forestry. Industry officials rejected the proposed deal..

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