CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice believes those who are opposed to his proposal to cut timber on State Park lands are misinformed. The Governor, speaking on MetroNews Talkline this week, said the proposal is for extremely limited logging which would enhance and not harm the park property.
“I just think you’re not managing a resource. That’s all there is to it,” he suggested to Metronews. “I’m telling you there’s no chance on God’s earth that Jim Justice is going to do something to harm the appearance of our state parks.”
The proposal, introduced in a bill early in the session, drew heavy criticism from a coalition of groups who formed to oppose the idea. The organizations opposed want no logging of any kind within the park system. State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt also came out in opposition to the idea. Leonhardt suggested there isn’t enough logging now on state lands where it is allowed like the State Forests, National Forests, or Wildlife Management Areas.
Justice pointed out a number of limits within the legislation. Taking no more than four trees per acre and no more than half of the marketable timber on any tract are safeguards against over harvest according to the Governor. He added the bill included requirements for reclamation after the logging which would offer greater access to parts of the parks which are now inaccessible through walking or biking trail construction. But diversification of habitat for the state’s native fauna was the Governor’s most significant selling point on the idea.
“The number one thing I see is it would explode the wildlife compared to what we’re doing,” said the Governor. “Wildlife has to have a little bit of an edge and it has to have undergrowth. It would substantially help our wildlife in those state parks.”
But critics claim the bill includes varying descriptions of the size of the trees which can be harvested, with one reference to a minimum diameter and another reference to a minimum circumference. They are leery the mature stands of timber are seen only as dollar signs by the Administration. The Governor admitted it is an asset to help improve the parks.
“It would generate significant money that would go into being able to make our parks better for all of our visitors,” said Justice.
The parks are presently in need of more than $50 Million in deferred maintenance with no funding stream to pay for the work. The Justice Administration believed revenue from timber sales would make up a small part of that revenue to fund the necessary repairs and renovations.