WVDOF revises State Forest Action Plan, sets priorities for the next 10 years

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF) presents an overview of priority actions to conserve, protect, and enhance the state’s forest resources in the 2020 State Forest Action Plan.

The forests provide economic and environmental value in diverse ways that include timber industry jobs, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and water quality and watershed protection.

The 2008 Farm Bill requires that all states receiving federal forestry funding complete an action plan every 10 years. Each state’s action plan includes analysis of forest conditions, trends and strategies. Collectively, the states’ action plans provide an informed basis for forest management on a national scale. The states’ Forest Action Plans are available online through the National Association of State Foresters, a nonprofit and leading authority on forest policy.

The West Virginia 2020 State Forest Action Plan identifies eight primary issues and strategies to manage them. Many of the broad issues WVDOF identified in the 2010 plan remain today and have been updated in the 2020 action plan.

1. Competing Land Uses
2. Communications and Education
3. Sustainability of Forest Resources
4. Water Quality
5. Wildfire
6. Sustainability of Urban Forests
7. Forest Health
8. Utilization, Marketing, and Economic Development

The report describes emerging threats such as the invasive spotted lanternfly, detected in West Virginia for the first time.

It recounts efforts to accomplish more with current staff and resources, prompting increased use of technology. WVDOF built the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program, using the vehicles popularly called drones for tasks such as aiding inspections, mapping for forestry projects, and locating wildfires.

The WVDOF Urban and Community Forestry program is partnering with West Virginia State University to develop a web-based basic training program on urban tree care. This program is expected to be available to the public later in 2021. 

WVDOF is ramping up the content of its website wvforestry.com, adding blogs, educational materials and important program-related, real-time data and maps. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will engage the public with informative educational videos and other materials.

The West Virginia 2020 State Forest Action Plan also includes a special dedication to Barry Cook, who served as West Virginia State Forester/Director from May 1, 2017 until his death on May 9, 2020. A native West Virginian, Cook had more than 45 years of experience as a forester. On July 22, 2020, Tom Cover was appointed as director. Cover has 44 years of experience in the wood industry and served WVDOF as regional forester.