New Division of Forestry & Natural Resources program advises state landowners
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012 13:02
The West Virginia University Division of Forestry & Natural Resources has developed an outreach program to advise forest owners in the state on proper harvest and management of timber property.
The Woodland Welcome Wagon program, funded by the West Virginia Division of Forestry, is an initiative geared toward distributing information on forestry resources and concerns to landowners across the state, as well as a "Meet Your Forester" workshop series held in six counties in West Virginia.
Dave McGill, Division of Forestry & Natural Resources professor and forest resources management specialist with WVU Extension, said the programs offered through the Woodland Welcome Wagon are designed to help land owners make informed decisions when managing their woodlands.
"It's a challenge, because there are so many private woodland owners in West Virginia, to connect with them and make sure that if they're interested in working with their woods in a particular way that they have the necessary information and know who to go to for information," McGill said.
Landowners can request packets sponsored through the program that include information on the West Virginia Forest Stewardship Program, a state program that offers technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in the West Virginia Forestry Association and in managing their forestland for multiple-use benefits.
These benefits include wood products, wildlife, recreation and aesthetics.
The packets also include a managed timberland fact sheet developed by the WVU Extension Service, a guide to choosing a forester and materials from the West Virginia Woodland Owners Association and West Virginia Woodland Stewards Web page.
"We have a reported 250,000 landowners here in West Virginia and these private lands make up such a huge portion of our total forest land," McGill said. "That collective population actually has a huge impact on our environmental quality and the consistency with which the timber industry is able to access this resource."
Megan McCuen, forestry and natural resources graduate student and program leader, said the program centers on outreach to keep landowners informed and able to contact foresters and other professionals invested in woodland management.
"What we really hoped to do was give these new landowners a way to get connected to forestry professionals," she said.
"As with a lot of new landowners, depending on how they acquired their land – maybe it was inherited, maybe they purchased it – we try to target people that may not know how to go about finding this information, or who to talk to that can help them or what can be done to create their ideal woodland."
McCuen said she is currently conducting a survey to assess the effectiveness of the Woodland Welcome Wagon project and hopes to expand the project from a 10-county area to a statewide initiative.
"I would like this project to be more than a one-time thing," McCuen said.
"I want people – as soon as they purchase their woodlands – to have resources available. I want them to be able to know who to call and what to do with their woodlands if they want."