Consequences: Committee made right call to prevent logging

State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt put his finger on the reason West Virginia legislators should be leery of a proposal to permit logging in a state park.

“Once the trees are cut, it is simply too late to repair any unseen consequences,” Leonhardt warned during a legislative committee hearing last week.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jim Justice had proposed logging be permitted on a limited basis in state parks. Proceeds could be used to address long-postponed maintenance projects in the parks, the governor said.

Initial opposition to the idea prompted supporters to back down a bit. The bill now under consideration would permit timbering only through a pilot program at Watoga State Park.

State senators discussing the proposal heard opposing viewpoints. Division of Natural Resources Director Steven McDaniel argued that, “It’s never been about the money.” Removal of some trees could make forests healthier, he contends. That could make the parks more, not less, appealing to visitors, supporters of the idea say.

Not so, countered opponents. “It would not be appealing at all,” lawmakers were told by Kenneth Caplinger, who was assistant superintendent at Watoga for five years.

It seems obvious state officials should do nothing that might make the parks less attractive to visitors who pump tens of millions of dollars a year into the state’s economy.

And, as Leonhardt pointed out, it takes a long, long time to grow a tree.

Members of the state Senate Natural Resources Committee took no action on the bill after hearing both sides of the issue.

State Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, who is the panel’s chairman, commented that he sees “pros and cons” in the bill.

Indeed, persuasive-sounding arguments can be made both for and against the proposal. But committee members are absolutely right to recognize that if a mistake is made on logging in a state park, it will be a legacy we leave to our grandchildren.