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Mature Red OakForestry is the science behind and the practice of planting, managing, or caring for forests. In West Virginia, approximately 78% of the land area is forested. These forests provide many valuable products including timber, maple syrup, medicinal plants, and mushrooms. Additional vital services, such as biodiversity, beautiful scenery, hunting, and carbon storage are also prevalent. Our forests truly make the state “Wild and Wonderful.” Whether you enjoy managing timber, foraging for morel mushrooms or ginseng, hunting white-tailed deer or wild turkey, or catching a glimpse of the elusive cerulean warbler; the forests of West Virginia have something for everyone.

Most of the forests in West Virginia are owned by private entities including farmers, families, and timber companies. Non-industrial private forest owners sometimes lack the technology, technical know-how, or funding to manage their land to achieve their goals. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps forest owners conserve the natural resources on their land by offering technical and financial assistance. With help from NRCS and its partners, non-industrial private forest owners conserve and restore thousands of acres in West Virginia each year. These efforts consist of excluding livestock from sensitive habitat on 12,800 acres, manipulating forest structure and composition on 9,700 acres, and controlling non-native invasive woody plants to establish native vegetation on 6,500 acres annually, to name a few.

The common resource concerns listed below can negatively impact forest health, vigor, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, aesthetics, recreation, stream buffering, and timber value:

  • Plants

Inadequate structure and composition - trees too crowded, sparse, or uniform; undesirable species

Undesirable plant productivity and health - low growth rate; lack of native regeneration; disease; pests

  • Animals

Inadequate fish and wildlife habitat - lack of habitat components such as food, cover, and connectivity; elevated water temperature from lack of shade

Livestock production limitation - access to woodland and sensitive areas

  • Soil, Water, and Air

Soil quality degradation - erosion and compaction

Water quality degradation - runoff into waterways that lack forest buffers

Air quality impacts - decreased carbon storage


NRCS conservation practices can be used to address these resource concerns:

Forest Stand Improvement - Manipulates species composition and density of a stand to increase overall health and production capabilities.

Brush Management – Controls undesirable or invasive species to improve forest health and production.

Tree/Shrub Site Preparation and Establishment - Establishes a new forest through either planting or natural regeneration.

Structures for Wildlife - Creates missing wildlife habitat components like dens and nesting cover often using leftover brush and cull trees from other conservation practices.    

Access Control and Fencing – Restricts livestock access into forests and streamside zones to protect these sensitive areas from degradation.

Early Successional Habitat Management - Creates and maintains early successional habitats, such as young forests and shrublands, for wildlife species that depend on them by clearing openings in the forest for natural regeneration.

Riparian Forest Buffer – Enhances stream health by restoring streamside plant communities, which provide shade, add coarse woody debris and detritus, and reduce runoff entering the stream. 

Forest conservation starts with a plan! A forest management plan is a site-specific plan prepared by a forester that guides landowners in addressing forest resource concerns. Non-industrial private forest owners may be eligible for financial assistance from either the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the WV Division of Forestry Forest Stewardship Program. This assistance can help to cover the cost of hiring a registered professional forester for development of a forest management plan. You may be eligible for additional NRCS financial assistance for implementing the conservation practices recommended in your plan. You may also be eligible for property tax incentives through the WV Managed Timberland Program.

Contact your local USDA Service Center for more information!     

Forestry Resources:

American Forest Foundation

Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture

National Wild Turkey Federation

NRCS Field Office Technical Guide

NRCS Technical Service Providers

US Forest Service, Forests of West Virginia

USDA Farm Service Agency

West Virginia Board of Registration for Foresters

West Virginia Conservation Agency

West Virginia Division of Forestry

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

West Virginia Forestry Association

West Virginia Tree Farm Program

West Virginia University Extension

West Virginia Woodland Stewards