BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – Did you know that West Virginia is the third most forested state in the nation?

West Virginia ranks as the third most forested state in the nation, just behind New Hampshire as second and Maine as first. West Virginia is also second in standing hardwood volume, according to Stateforesters.org. From the western Ohio River Valley counties, to the southern coal fields and the eastern mountains, the state contains a diverse geography and diverse range of forest opportunities and challenges.

But what does having so much forest in our state actually mean? According to the West Virginia Division of Forestry, there are five things to keep in mind about why a state’s forests matter.

  1. Forests protect the environment
  2. Forests create jobs
  3. Forest provide valuable wood products
  4. Forests promote tourism
  5. Forests are our home

Forests cover 78.5% of the land in West Virginia. These forests face challenges that include fragmentation, competing land use, and invasive species. Fewer parcels of 1,000 acres and up exist in 2018 than in 1975. Land use for development has nearly doubled in West Virginia between 1982 and 2017.

Since forests are such a a big part of West Virginia, it is the responsibility of everyone to do their part in protecting them.

The WVDOF protects forests in the face of wildfire, insects, diseases, and other threats to their health. They manage fires by maintaining prevention, preparedness, and suppression.

The major cause of most of West Virginia’s wildfires and brushfires is debris burning. The WVDOF fire section is currently developing a training policy for wildfire to respond to the threat.

Approximately 651,000 acres of forest land in West Virginia are at risk of suffering 25% or greater mortality in the next 15 years due to exotic insects, plants, and diseases. To combat this threat, the state participates in the West Virginia Invasive Species Working Group and other programs.

For more information about how you can help protect West Virginia’s forests, and what the WVDOF is doing to protect them, check out their website here.