Release from the W.Va. Department of Commerce:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher today, March 17, announced the recall of 15 state foresters who were laid off last year. The recall will take effect immediately.
“We are excited to put our foresters back to work,” said Secretary Thrasher. “This is just one more example of Governor Justice’s initiatives to restore sound management of our state forests in a fiscally responsible manner.”
“Forestry professionals play a critical role in sustaining our state’s forest resources, including coordinating with loggers across the State of West Virginia,” said West Virginia Division of Forestry Director Randy Dye.
Since the layoffs last year, these duties have been performed by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).
“This was clearly a case where we had the wrong agency performing these activities,” said Gov. Justice. “Our state foresters are some of the most dedicated workers in our state, and they are far better equipped to handle this type of activity. I am excited that these valued employees are being called back to work at the Division of Forestry.”
A combination of a funds transfer from the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training as well as existing vacancies within the Division of Forestry will fund the positions through the end of fiscal year 2017. The Governor will ask the Legislature to carry over this transfer in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget bill. Going forward, the Justice administration will work with the agency, the Legislature, and representatives of industry on a permanent solution to this funding issue, including the possible reinstitution of the timber severance tax to the rate of 2.78 percent.
“Just like our current budget crisis across state government, we shouldn’t kick the can down the road any further as we attempt to make our timber industry the most environmentally sound in the country,” said Gov. Justice.