Forestry Remains a Largely Untapped Industry in W.Va. | The State Journal

West Virginia’s forestry industry makes a significant contribution to the state’s economy, and that contribution is poised to grow, according to a recent study from the Appalachian Hardwood Center and West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry and Natural Resources in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

The study showed that the forest industry accounts for 1.4 percent of the state’s gross regional product.

“That seems like a drop in the bucket, but it is pretty significant,” said Clinton Gabbert, co-author of the study. “One of the main conclusions of the study was how big a driver forestry can be for the state and how we haven’t seen that.”

West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the nation. Even with decreasing numbers, West Virginia is still one of the top wood-producing states in the nation, producing more than 700 million board feet of lumber, according to the West Virginia Department of Commerce’s 2017 report.

This recent study notes that a 2005 study by Randy Childs put the forest industry in the state at the $4 billion mark. Since that time, jobs have decreased by 45 percent, according to Gabbert. This newest study reported a decline in employment in all the forest products beginning in 2006, with the largest decline coming after 2008. However, that decline simply indicates the state has an underutilized resource growing on its hills, particularly as the economy grows.

“The governor is looking for an economic driver, and forestry products would be a great place to start,” Gabbert said.

The decline in forest industry jobs coincides with the 2007 recession, according to a 2012 study.

“In West Virginia, we are really fortunate to have hardwood forests, and solid wood products are the backbone of the forest products industry,”…

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