Cut and run
  The most diverse forest
  Three different forest

  Four seasons
  Colorful fall season
  Flowers galore
  Endangered species
  Lots of forests
  Cutting down the trees
  Forest fun
  Acid Rain

Forest Fun      Lots to manage. How the U.S. Forest Service treats public lands takes on new significance once the breadth of its managerial mandate is realized.  The agency administers 155 national forests containing roughly 370,000 square miles which compose one-tenth of the landmass of the United States.  Presently these forests produce 4 percent  of  the nation's softwood lumber, dramatically down from one-quarter in years past.  In the 1990s national forest timber production dropped to 3.8 billion board feet from more than 11 billion board feet.

      In correspondence with these trends, recreational use of national forests has mushroomed in recent years, so much so that people made three times as many visits to national forests in 1997 as were made to national parks.  The Forest Service has taken notice and has dedicated about three-quarters of agency jobs to recreation related matters as compared to a mere 3 percent for logging. One Mon recreational web site is:   Then click on "Information provided by Gorp."    

     When Mike Dombeck in 1997 took charge of the Forest Service, he inherited an agency noted for its bloated staff, inefficiency, financial sloppiness, and kowtowing to the timber industry. He turned around the Forest Service.  An analysis of his performance appears in the June 13, 1999, edition of The New York Times Magazine.  One of the disclosures that sprang from reassessed bookkeeping was the fact that the agency had lost tens of millions of dollars annually on logging operations.  So the current focus on recreation instead of logging makes sense and saves money. However, with the departure of Dombeck and the Bush regime in control, the regulatory horizon is darker.       

     Jobs. As the push from some quarters in Appalachia continues for more timber related jobs, government regulators are pulled in two potentially conflicting directions: cutting more timber and preserving our splendid mixed mesophytic forests. Timber production is equated with more jobs, particularly in rural counties, making timber production a pocketbook issue.

      Tourism growth. Another pocketbook issue, an ever-increasingly important one at that, is the growth of tourism based upon West Virginia's scenic beauty. No great stretch of the imagination is required to appreciate that rapidly expanding timber production and maintaining scenic beauty may be at loggerheads.

      In the 1990s prominent scenic areas faced serious threats of timbering or spoilation: near Cooper's Rock and near Blackwater Canyon. The state (at Governor Caperton's behest) protected the scenic view at Cooper's Rock through the power of the purse. Timbering of a large tract in the Blackwater Canyon started in 1998. Much of the timber was cut although a small portion was set aside and bought for preservation. A movement exists to give the area nationally protected status.  For current Blackwater Canyon news you can access

      Recreational use of forested lands takes various forms.   Hiking is popular and so is mountain biking.   The up-to-date classic is Allen de Hart's Hiking the Mountain State which can be purchased from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.  According to the American Hiking Society West Virginia has the potential to be a hiking mecca for the East Coast.  National interest in hiking continues to grow among all age groups.

     Of course the Appalachian Trail, headquartered at Harper's Ferry, cuts through the Eastern Panhandle. The proposed 6,000-mile American Discovery Trail, stretching from Delaware to California, passes through north-central West Virginia. The state's segment starts at Green Spring in Hampshire County, dipping southward into Dolly Sods and Canaan Valley, then westward toward Parkersburg where it exits the state.

      Preservation. The Nature Conservancy has been the leader internationally, nationally, and in West Virginia, at preserving natural sites by purchasing them.. The Nature Conservancy practices an effective, low-key, non-confrontational approach to conservation that is attractive to a wide segment of donors.

     In West Virginia the Nature Conservancy's focus has been in the eastern half of the state. There many sites exist with unique or uncommon species of plants and animals or have unusual characteristics worth preserving.

     North Fork Mountain, for example. The 70,000-acre upper Shavers Fork watershed containing with the highest large stream in eastern North America. Blister Swamp which is the highest large wetland on limestone known in the easter U.S. The list goes on.

     The acquisition process starts with identifying tracts of land that harbor species of rare plants and animals. The land is purchased outright or protected with a conservation easement; that is, the Nature Conservancy manages the land whose ownership remains in in private hands. Some land purchases are made and then repurchased by the federal (or state) government for protection. Some land tracts become a nature preserve open to the public.

      Visit The Nature Conservancy at The state chapters and their preserves, including photographs, can be found at this site. Another, newer, land preservation group is the West Virginia Land Trust.

     Pulp mills. Perhaps the greatest potential for jobs-tourism-scenic beauty conflict arises when gargantuan amounts of timber are required for producing pulp, chipboard, strand board, and the like. Their voracious appetites are worrisome. Concern about the side effects of massive scale timbering was a major factor in the Mason County Pulp Mill controversy. After a decade-old struggle in the courts and in the court of public opinion, a coalition of citizens was able to defeat the pulp mill proposal in early 1998. OVEC was a major participant in its demise. A pre-victory commentary about that struggle can be found at:       

     Let the following statement from the president of the pulp mill company in a New York Times interview be remembered as a cause of vigilence:  "We normally build pulp and paper mills in the boondocks where we provide jobs and, in effect, become the power structure." 
Last updated on Saturday, April 14, 2001