Focus falls on Virginia’s lucrative forestry sector
Virginia’s precious forestry resources are to be the focus of a major new investment, according to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who called the sector one of the ‘linchpins’ of the state’s economy.
Currently, the state’s forestry sector accounts for more than 100,000 jobs, as well as generating more than $17 billion a year for the local economy. Mr McAuliffe has made clear his desire to ensure that the industry is protected, maintained to the highest possible standard and above all, expanding year on year, both in terms of area and profitability.
The governor made a recent visit to the Virginia Department of Forestry Center in Crimora, where he viewed vast numbers of seedlings that have been planted in order to help boost the state’s reforestation efforts of their 16 million acres of forest land.
While at the Forestry Center, Mr McAuliffe confirmed that there was to be a dual investment in forestry, saying that the sector forms a large part of the state’s new economy, and that it is “imperative we ensure our forestlands are protected, productive and healthy for the future of this vital industry. It’s our job to ensure that we continue to protect and to grow our forestry resources so that they are very productive for many years to come.”
Virginia will match the value of the revenue that is produced by a self-imposed tax on commercial timber harvesting, marking the first time since the late 1990s that this has been done. The money will then go towards landowners’ payments for the reforestation and site preparation of land following the timber harvest.
The other part of the investment will see the Department of Forestry provided with a host of brand new bulldozers, pickup trucks and transport trucks in order that it can put up a better fight against the numerous wildfires that happen every year, thus better protecting the precious forest land. At present, the Department of Forestry has been relying on 20-year-old vehicles to cover forest fire emergencies, with many of the trucks having driven more than 150,000 miles. “I do not like being 50th of 50 states. I do not get out of bed to be second, third, fourth or 50th in the United States of America – that’s just not who I am,” Mr McAuliffe said in relation to the new fire and rescue equipment.
Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said that the preservation of the forest land was vital: “We can’t harvest timber if we don’t have it,” he said, adding that “suppression equipment is a key.”
Last year, Virginia agriculture and forestry exports totaled $3.19 billion, which was the highest value in the state’s history, equating to $72 million in state revenue, Mr McAuliffe confirmed.
GWD Forestry spokesman, James Barrett, said: “It is clear why Virginia is ploughing resources into this precious – and hugely profitable – forestry sector in order that it continue to grow and to boost the state’s economy. Working to preserve precious forest resources is of course not all about profits, but rather the environmental benefits to building and maintaining a strong sector will be manifold too.”