February 5, 2018
I write to speak in opposition to the SB 270. I am a professional forester with a B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife, and an M.S. in Forestry and Forest Products.
I oppose this legislation for these reasons:
State Park forests are a legacy from the past and need to be managed as special areas. Much of the State Park forest is maturing second growth with clean headwater streams and soils unpolluted by forest road erosion and sediment. This resource serves as a complement (in habitat, educational opportunities, and research potential) to the State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas where management for timber production and early and middle-aged forests is a goal. Also, beautiful, wild places in which humans can experience nature are important for mental and spiritual health, and our State Parks provide this to residents and tourists. A national study reports that more people in the U.S. own forests for beauty and retreat than timber production and hunting. State Parks forests provide places of beauty, for study, play, and retreat.
The biggest threat to forest health in WV comes from invasive species, and most forest health management does not require commercial timber management. For years West Virginia’s State Parks have been managing for forest health issues (like keeping the hemlocks healthy and Japanese barberry (a plant correlated with high numbers of ticks) out of the understory) in cooperation with the WV Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry office in Morgantown. Managing for forest health typically involves things like treating forest pests with natural predators (biocontrol), mowing invasive plants to slow their spread along roads and trails, thinning of stands that usually remove the small (uncommercial cutting) trees, and planting trees to improve rare species habitats. Experts on forest health should be key advisors to management planning with State Parks for forest health.
Finally, this Bill is bad because it proposes commercial timber production on public lands set aside as non-timber production areas, using harvesting guidelines with arbitrary cutting limits that have nothing to do with silviculture. The critical and essential first step of any professional, sustainable, and defendable forest health management project on a State Park will be a State Park-driven Forest Stewardship Plan created for the goal of protecting forest health and other high conservation value forest attributes, informed by field inventory, and developed with input from WV DNR foresters, biologists and other Partner experts.
Current law should be maintained, as it is adequate in providing for management of healthy State Park forests.
Cimarolli Forestry & Wildlife