By Shelby Jones
On Feb. 23, a bill to lift an 80-year ban on commercial timber harvesting in West Virginia state parks was defeated after widespread public backlash.
State Senate Bill 270, proposed on Jan. 15 with the support of Gov. Jim Justice, would have allowed logging in the parks to raise funding for state parks. In response, conservation groups across the state joined together to form the Save Our State Parks initiative to preserve the parks’ “wild and wonderful” forests.
The West Virginia Rivers Coalition, a conservation group, announced that citizens sent 16,866 letters to state legislators through the group’s resources.
“A senator told me he had received more citizen opposition to this bill than any other this session,” the coalition’s executive director, Angie Rosser, said in a press release.
Representatives from the Save Our State Parks initiative met with West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher to discuss ways to secure funding without extracting natural resources from state parks.
In a state Senate committee meeting on Feb. 12, the bill was substituted with a pilot plan that would only allow commercial logging in Watoga State Park. That plan was also met with criticism, and on Feb. 23, Cabell County Sen. Mike Woelfl announced in a press release that the bill was “as dead as an old chestnut tree.”
CORRECTION: April 9, 2018
An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the “Save Our State Parks” initiative as the “Save Our State” initiative.