By Alex Bunn
WVPA Legislative Reporter
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — W.Va. Division of Forestry State Forester and Director Barry Cook provided an update on future plans for DOF during a recent Forest Management Review Commission meeting at the West Virginia Legislature’s July interim meetings.
Cook offered his report at a meeting at the Capitol on July 23.
Cook started the presentation off by explaining what has been accomplished in the two years since gaining tenure in the Division of Forestry.
Cook said the WVDOF has generated more than $1million dollars in grant funding in the last two years, as well as establishing important partnerships with the WVDNR, WVDEP, WVDO, and WVFA.
Cook outlined other achievements of the Division of Forestry:
- Launched a user-friendly website for the public
- Accelerated harvesting on authorized forests generating 2.1 million dollars in 2017, 2.4 million in 2018, and numbers are expected to grow in 2019
- Designing a walk-through mobile exhibit to showcase at local fairs, festivals, etc. that will explain logging and fire prevention
- Purchased a new siren radio system to improve communication during emergency situations
- Established a drone program to make wildfire detection easier and diffusion more efficient. The new drone program also aids in monitoring logging for permanent records.
Speaking about the future, Cook said there is still much to be done. However, he said, salaries and staffing are issues. Although the WVDOF saw a merit increase for eligible employees and across-the-board pay increases for all, Cook said employees are still 50th in pay scale for every forestry position in comparison to other states. Cook said five additional service foresters and at least two more investigators are needed immediately to be dispersed around the state.