By Karly Shire
Coopers Rock State Forest is over 12,000 acres of picturesque forestry. The forest not only serves as a popular recreation site, but also as an area for forestry research, timber management, and wildlife and watershed protection. However, a new proposed timber project now threatens all of that.
The Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project proposes to deforest 375 acres for commercial purposes. The project will be confined to areas east of the Scott Run trail and west of Pisgah Road.
The project has several objectives. The proposal identifies recreational, silvicultural, and wildlife related as the three main goals.
Deforesting the land by Pisgah Road will open up a new entrance way and avoid overcrowding in other areas. The new trails that will be created will add more recreation sites to Coopers Rock.
One of the biggest questions is how will deforesting hundreds of acres be beneficial to the wildlife? The project states that it will stimulate oak regeneration, increase the hickory component, and increase forest age diversity, which in turn will create a diverse habitat for wildlife. The benefits that are accompanied with these goals will create a better environment for both game and non-game wildlife.
“The Coopers Rock State Forest is continuously, and some on the Foundation would say aggressively timbered. One of the very few areas of the forest where that is not true is the Pisgah area, and that is why it is so special. That part of the forest has not been timbered since about 1936…very unusual for a forest that really is very timbered.”
-A spokesperson from The Coopers Rock Foundation
This proposal is of great controversy. The Coopers Rock Foundation has posed many questions and concerns which were not answered in the proposal.
The Foundation pointed out that the recreational trails would just be leftover lumber haul roads. These roads are not suited for recreation. The group also points out that while the proposal clearly states the possible benefits for wildlife, it fails to mention any possible dangers they may face during timbering.
The Foundation has taken action in several different ways. They asked followers, through their Facebook page, to contact legislators asking them to put the project on hold until these concerns are addressed by the Division of Forestry.
Coopers Rock Foundation circulated a petition that received over a thousand signatures and forwarded it to Governor Tomblin. The petition cited several reasons as to why the project should be canceled indefinitely. Most importantly, they believe:
“Because this area does not have defined trails and is an example of an undeveloped recreation area, this area should be preserved as an old growth forest and should be managed for undeveloped recreation and aesthetic preservation.”
– Coopers Rock Foundation
In early February, the Foundation, along with Aurora Lights, an environmentalist group, hosted Hug Our Tree Day. Supporters went out to hug the trees and to show their discontent with the proposed timber project.
The Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah Project Photo petitions is a campaign that allows the public to voice their concerns with the timber project. The campaign has received several entries from residents all over the state of West Virginia.
The Foundation recently sent Board members to Charleston to discuss the concerns of the forest’s management with Governor Tomblin’s staff. They are currently awaiting responses from the state agencies as to the fate of the project.