West Virginia’s forests are one of our greatest natural assets and drivers. They are the home to West Virginia’s beauty, culture and economy. They have driven the way we live, influencing our lives as outdoorsmen and women, and they have kept us proudly connected to the land. They have provided for our well-being by giving us clean water, clean air and the forest and tourism industry jobs that provide income for many of West Virginia’s working families.

And The Nature Conservancy’s science shows our forests to be some of the most important in North America for the carbon they store, the water they provide and the habitats they create for a rich diversity of plants and animals. This makes them crucial natural strongholds for not only West Virginia, but also for the nation and the globe.

We haven’t always treated our forests well. Any student of West Virginia history knows of the rush to exploit our vast untouched forests to feed a nation hungered with expansive development in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This period of big cuts had profound effects, and we learned the consequences to our natural environment — and subsequently to our own well-being. We also learned the consequences the boom and bust cycles of unsustainable harvests could have on our economies and personal job security.

But those days are behind us, and our forests have regenerated. West Virginia is now the third most forested state in the nation. And we have come a long way in learning that forestry can have tremendous positive benefits when practiced correctly in the correct places, using science for managing and restoring our forests with our well-being and the well-being of our natural environment and our economy as our correlated outcomes.

We must think in new ways to really take advantage of how forestry can meet these goals, and we must move beyond the rhetoric of “get out the cut” or “leave it all alone” to look at where we can apply forestry as a tool to get all the correlated outcomes above. Science exists to guide this discussion. The Nature Conservancy has put much of it together, identifying the last great places of irreplaceable habitats and the most resilient and connected lands across the Appalachians.

Read more on this from the Daily Mail WV at https://www.wvgazettemail.com/dailymailwv/thomas-minney-and-beth-wheatley-a-new-era-in-west/article_a80cbf22-ede5-5443-b3c6-b21915a3fb27.html.