CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Amid growing heat over a proposal for limited commercial logging in West Virginia State Parks, Division of Forestry Director Barry Cook defended the idea. Cook, speaking Wednesday on MetroNews Talkline, backed up the original claim the State Parks would benefit from property executed timber cuts.

“There literally has been no harvest or management in these parks for years,” said Cook. “They’re overcrowded, the trees are over mature and by selectively harvesting we can remove the diseased and dying trees and at the same time expand the park footprint.”

The expansion is something Cook believed was being left out of the equation by opponents oft the plan. He contended of the 81,000 acres across the West Virginia State Park System only about 10 to 15 percent of the land is actually accessible to the public. The legislation which would authorize the limited timbering also calls for reclamation post logging to transform the timber sites into recreational use areas in the park..

“Once we finish logging, the roads we have built can be developed into usable trails,” he explained.

Cook added iconic sites in the West Virginia State Park system area safe.

“We have areas we will never consider,” he said. “View-sheds, the overlooks at Pipestem, Cathedral, and places like that would never ever even be considered because of their antithetical value.”

But critics contend all of the State Park lands hold that kind of value and are committed to fighting Senate Bill 270 which would allow the limited timber harvests.

The issue has become a political battle at the Capital. This week State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt expressed his opposition to the plan, suggesting the monetary value of the severely limited logging parameters in the proposed bill would not make it an attractive timber job to most logging operators. Not so according to Cook.

“We can make economical harvest out of those areas with an average of four trees per acre on the tract. The other restriction is you cannot remove more than 50 percent of the merchantable volume on any one acre,” Cook said. “Yes, we feel like we can still come up with economic forest plans on these areas.”

The bill currently sits in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

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