While State Bill 270 is still working its way through committee, County Commission President Diane Hinkle reported that representatives from the Division of Natural Resources and the state parks system assured the Tucker County Commissioners that harvesting of lumber would not take place in Blackwater Falls or Canaan Valley State Parks.
The Tucker County Commissioners met with Chief of State Parks Sam England and Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel during Tucker County Day. In that meeting, the bill was discussed. “One thing they assured us, it does not include Blackwater State Park or Canaan Valley State Park,” Hinkle said. “That bill would not do anything in Tucker County.”
According to Hinkle, the Division of Natural Resources is working to identify the six parks that the bill would affect.
Senate Bill 270 was introduced on Monday, January 15. The bill is sponsored by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso. If passed, the bill would lift a 1931 ban state park timbering.
If passed, the Division of Natural Resources would establish and execute a forest management plan for state park land that would included the harvesting and sale of timber.
“Authorizing the Director of the Division of Natural Resources to implement a sound silvicultural management plan for state park lands, which may include the harvesting and sale of timber; providing requirements for the sale of timber located on state park lands; providing requirements for the deposit and expenditure of proceeds; and authorizing emergency rule-making authority.”
According to the United States Forest Service, silvicultural management “is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests and woodlands to meet the diverse needs and values of landowners and society such as wildlife habitat, timber, water resources, restoration, and recreation on a sustainable basis.”
The timber harvesting “shall not exceed the average of four trees per acre per tract nor more than one half of the merchantable timber volume of the acre. Only trees with a circumference of at least sixteen inches based on the diameter at breast height may be harvested.”
The bill is intended to generate income to pay for a $50 million parks system backlog. Recently, Blackwater Falls State Park replaced three boilers for approximately $700,000.
Conservation groups across the state and even some national groups oppose the bill. Some elected officials have spoken up in opposition. Some opposition groups suggest reintroducing the entrance fees to state parks that was attempted and then quickly repealed by Governor Jim Justice last year.
Canaan Valley Superintendent Stan Deafore and Blackwater Falls Superintendent Matt Baker did not respond to inquiries.