by Adam Polinski, Coopers Rock Foundation |
Largest timber job ofmodern era at Coopers Rock planned for largest roadless area in states most popular State Forest!
“Jumping the Shark” is a phrase originally used to describe “the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery” (Wikipedia). Beyond the framework of television, the phrase indicates the point in the evolution of something when it moves so far beyond its original qualities that it is “beyond relevance or recovery.” It seems that the WV Division of Forestry has done just that with its planning processes at Coopers Rock State Forest.
On January 19, 2006, the DOF issued its 10-year Resource Management Plan for Coopers Rock State Forest. There were plenty of issues with that plan. Some considered it biased toward some of the things listed in State Code with regard to how WV State Forests are to be managed, at the expense of other things listed in State Code. Regardless, at least there was a plan that went through the process of public comment, a public hearing, a Response to Comments, etc.
That plan was to have guided silvicultural activities within the section of Coopers Rock the DOF has jurisdiction over — the side south of I-68, plus just a few smaller sections north of there. The current timbering of 177 acres, between McCollum Campground and Raven Rock fits into that plan. So did the increase in size of two Wildlife Openings done in 2008, which amounted to a few dozen acres of timbering.
Also in that plan was a project that was to occur in a “No Man’s Land” between Rt 73 and I-68, and between the truck brake check station and the overpass to Pisgah. The Plan says “... this area is well located to demonstrate forestry practices to the public. A parking area and interpretive signs could be placed to allow self guided tours with easy access from the interstate highway.” Such a project in this site would have displaced absolutely no recreational activities, nor anything of historical or ecological importance. There are 47 acres, more or less, of state-owned land in that “No Man’s Land,” which is indeed well-situated for a demonstration forestry project.
But, apparently through their own loophole in their Guidelines for Managing WV’s Nine State Foreststhat reads goals of the State Forest Management Plan may be recommended by the Director of the Division of Forestry anytime during the 10-year interim subject to consultation from the advisory committee,” the agency decided to make a few changes. And now a newly proposed project has virtually no resemblance whatsoever to the project described in the 10-year Management Plan. Further, it is hard to believe any advisory committee was ever consulted on this — we await proof.
On May 19, 2012, the DOF issued a new project plan and conducted a public tour about it. They (A) moved the project onto the south side of Coopers Rock, into the northeast section of the Scott Run watershed, the largest remaining roadless area within Coopers Rock State Forest (excluding the road network involved in the current timbering near McCollum Campground and Raven Rock). They (B) also increased it in size from 47 acres to 375 acres — 8 times the size of the original project! They (C) also jettisoned the idea of demonstration forestry, a concept completely absent from the Objectives section of their new
Why did they move it? Ostensibly, it was because of a potential land swap involving those 47 acres and two inholdings in the northeast section of Coopers Rock within the University Forest Section totaling 111.38 acres and 43 acres, respectively. But this land swap is hardly imminent. The last time any meetings were held on the proposed swap were in Summer 2011. Nor has the state even surveyed their land in the “No Man’s Land” anytime in recent history, a normal step when a land transaction is imminent. Because a land swap just might possibly happen one day, the DOF moved their project.
A land swap is conceivably a credible reason, but explains nothing about either converting it into the largest timber project for Coopers Rock of the modern era, 8 times the sizeof the project for which it is a substitute, and twice the size of the current project (itself the biggest timbering project at Coopers Rock in a few decades), or jettisoning the demonstration forestry component of it, which actually defined What good is a 10-year Management Plan — the closest thing the DOF has to a contract with the landowner— when they don’t even follow their own Plan? Why did we, the landowners of this public land, even bother to be involved with it back in 2005/6 if it means so little? This is the latest in a string of questionable management decisions that raise red flags about the credibility of the DOF’s entire planning process. With this gigantic departure from their own Plan, the DOF has indeed “jumped the shark” at Coopers Rock.
Oh yeah, you might want to know something about thevsubstance of this new proposal. It’s the latest chapter in the Juggernaut of the DOF and the DNR Wildlife Resources Section hungrily desiring more and more Early Successional Forest — forest aged between 5 and 20 years old. It’s the latest chapter in their desire to eradicate scores and scores of red maple so that more oaks can grow larger and produce more acorns.
It’s all being done without objectively determined Riparian Buffer Zones, with no admittance that this specific project might be the first of many in this roadless area of Coopers Rock, and with the establishment of a new parking area off the beaten path. Said parking area looks like a perfect location for another Cheat Lake Backwaters lawless partying scene that we happily said goodbye to with the advent of Cheat Lake Park & Trail.
The juggernaut is chugging forward toward their happy day when 20 percent of the south side of Coopers Rock is composed of forest 5-20 years old (grouse like it), with a large network of gated service roads accessing the majority of the forest.
The fundamental underlying problem? The DOF categorizes 70 percent of the south side of Coopers Rock as “working, or commercial forest,” with only 30 percent off-limits for silvicultural practices.
The solution? That proportion needs to be reversed.