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The Virginia Acorn Program – An Idea for West Virginia

This year, Virginia donors sent 12 tons of acorns and other tree seeds to the Virginia Department of Forestry to secure Virginia’s arboreal future. It is all part of a decade-old program to grow and plant hardwood seedlings in Virginia’s forests. The program promotes a natural remedy for climate change in that trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it for many years. It allows Virginia residents to be a part of that process in a satisfying way. There is no such program in West Virginia.

The acorns are collected at the Virginia state nursery at Crimona, Virginia, where the seedlings emerge eighteen months after planting. The seedlings are sold to landowners and the timber industry.

In West Virginia, the timber industry is big business. 78% of land in West Virginia is forested, ranking us third in the U.S. The industry generates around $3.2 billion each year for the state and provides more than 30,000 jobs with 12 million acres of forestland and 75 billion board feet of timber inventory. Each of West Virginia’s 55 counties has a piece of the wood industry as an employer. The labor force is predominantly located in rural areas and small towns, and in many cases, these companies are the largest employers in the community, offering high-paying jobs and creating stability for families.

Trees not only remove carbon dioxide, they also filter the water and air, reduce temperatures to decrease demand for electricity during the summer months, and lure leaf-peeping tourists in the autumn. Mature trees can be harvested for home builders, furniture makers and other businesses.

The West Virginia state nursery is located at Clements, WV, in Mason County near the Ohio River. Several years ago, the nursery sold seedlings of native trees in containers to landowners. The current Division of Forestry website makes no mention of that effort.

This seems like a low-cost, high-return idea that would interest many segments of the state. Perhaps some bright West Virginia Legislator will see the virtue in backing proposed legislation that could satisfy environmentalists, the forest industry and conservation community all at once.