By EMILY GALLAGHER, Times-West Virginian
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — West Virginia is known as the Mountain State, but what do people know about the trees covering those mountains?
There are seven state forests and one national forest in West Virginia. The state forests are Seneca State Forest, Kumbrabow State Forest, Greenbrier State Forest, Coopers Rock State Forest, Camp Creek State Forest, Calvin Price State Forest and Cabwaylingo State Forest. The Monongahela National Forest is the only national forest in the state. Randy Dye, director and state forester with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, said West Virginia is the third most forested state in the nation.
“Seventy-eight percent of our total acreage is covered in forest, which means 12 million acres are forested,” he said.
Dye said of the 12 million acres, 87 percent are privately owned or owned by companies.
Dye said there are about 5,998 million trees covering the state.
“That means there’s 33,000 trees for every individual in the state,” he said.
Dye said each forest in the state helps provide for residents in the state, whether it be with jobs, resources, recreation or a nice view.
“Forests provide the highest quality of water,” he said. “And they’re the scenic beauty of the state.”
There are several types of trees in the state’s forests, including yellow poplar, red maple, black cherry and spruce.
“Black cherry is the most valuable because they’re the most desired for furniture,” he said. “They only grow in the Appalachian region.”
He said each forest also has unique qualities.
Seneca State Forest is the oldest of West Virginia’s state forests. It is located in central Pocahontas County and provides 14 miles of hiking.
After the Civil War, the forest provided timber to a wood products industry. Areas within and surrounding the forest were removed of white pine trees during this time, which changed the character of the land. This led to large fires taking over the land.
In 1924, most of the forest was purchased by the state of West Virginia with the top priority being protection from fire. Since then, white pine trees have made a steady comeback to Seneca, and with management practices the volume in white pine and oak is said to have increased.
Kumbrabow State Forest played a vital part in timber harvesting in the 1880s. The forest provided red spruce to companies like the Alexander Boom and Lumber Co. and the J. Natwick Co. Most of the forest now is covered with black cherry trees.
The forest is unique because after it was purchased by the state, it was named after three men who were responsible for the purchase: Gov. Herman G. Kump, Spates Brady and Hubert Bowers. The first three letters of their last names were put together to name the forest Kumbrabow.
Greenbrier State Forest is located in southeastern Greenbrier County and consists of many steep, rocky, parallel ridges and valleys. One of the more known mountains in the forest is Kate’s Mountain. It was named after Kate Carpenter, who survived an Indian raid by hiding with her infant in a hollow log.
Mature timber in the forest show scars and decay from years of repeated burning from early settlers and farmers who burned the forest for agricultural benefits. When the settlers stopped burning, fires were caused by trains trying to slow down coming off the steep grades.
Coopers Rock State Forest, located near Bruceton Mills, is the largest state forest in West Virginia at about 12,747 acres.
Around 1798, low-grade iron ore was discovered in the area. Many iron furnaces were constructed in the area, like the Henry Clay Iron Furnace in 1834.
Out of the total acreage, 7,068 acres were leased to the Board of Governors of West Virginia University in 1959 for 99 years. The forest is used by the university for research and teaching and is known as West Virginia University Research Forest.
Camp Creek State Forest, located in Mercer County, is 5,269 acres, with 487 acres of the original forest made a state park in 1988.
The forest played a part in development of northern Mercer County. Camp Creek was the name because troops in the Civil War considered the area good for camping.
The forest is known for its fishing and hunting. Camp Creek is stocked with trout every spring and has small game, deer and turkey for hunting.
Calvin Price State Forest is the most recent forest to be added to the West Virginia State Forest system. The forest is located in Pocahontas County and was purchased by the state from the New River Lumber Co. in 1953.
Calvin Price is unlike most of the forests in the state because it has no developed recreational areas. That’s because the forest is located close to Watoga State Park, which is one of the state’s largest recreational parks.
Cabwaylingo State Forest is named after the counties it covers — Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln and Mingo. The 6,196-acre forest was purchased by the state in 1933, and additional purchases have expanded the size to 8,150 acres.
The forest, like others, has experienced destructive forest fires. They were caused by arson, debris burning and moonshining.
Monongahela National Forest is the only national forest in the state. It was established after the 1911 Weeks Act passed. The act authorized the federal purchase of the land.
The forest covers more than 919,000 acres in 10 West Virginia counties.
What’s unique about the forest is the different elevations it contains because it’s so large. The lowest part of the forest is about 1,000 feet above sea level and the highest is 4,863 feet above sea level.
There are at least 75 tree species throughout the forest and more than 225 species of birds with eight federally listed as threatened or endangered species of birds, bats, salamanders and plants.