Charleston, WV – West Virginia Commissioner of
Agriculture Kent Leonhardt released the following statement in response to
Senate Bill 270, which authorizes the Division of Natural Resources (DNR)
to harvest trees within the West Virginia State Parks system.
“The Governor and
Legislature should kill Senate Bill 270,” Leonhardt said. “The initiative
set within the legislation is poorly thought-out with little foresight.
There are better alternatives to fund the repairs our state parks
desperately need. The payoff from harvesting timber within the parks will
do more harm than good in the long run.”
Senate Bill 270
changes existing state code to allow the DNR in consultation with the
Division of Forestry (DOF) to implement a plan to harvest trees within the
West Virginia State Parks system. Authority and discretion to harvest
lumber would fall under the directors of the DOF and DNR, as well as the
park superintendent of the property being analyzed.
alternative is to direct excess funds from increased harvests already being
conducted in our state forests to improve the parks. The revenue from the
harvesting plan already in place will far exceed the funds required to
operate the DOF. The excess can easily be directed towards the parks
system,” Leonhardt said.
conservation groups, as well as private citizens, have already expressed concerns
with the plan set by SB 270. These groups have formed a coalition to push
forth a campaign called “Save our State Parks” to combat the legislation.
concern is this legislation will negatively affect park visitors and the
tourism industry,” Leonhardt said. “Visitors to our parks deserve the
opportunity to learn about old growth forests and the many non-game species
that inhabit these areas. Additionally, the restrictions set within the
bill are too narrow, lowering the potential harvest value that could come
from SB 270. This further decreases any probable benefits to the state
while putting the parks at risk.”
“We need to examine all alternative
options and formulate a common-sense plan before stepping off this cliff,”
Leonhardt said. “The West Virginia Department of Agriculture stands ready
to assist the DNR in any way possible. We already have a great working
relationship when it comes to managing forest health issues. This is too
valuable of a natural resource not to take the proper time to develop a
well thought-out plan.”