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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a twofold problem.

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Group Aims to Find, Protect Older Forests in WV, Nation

The American Society of Foresters recognized the Gaudineer Scenic Area in 1983 for its "near-natural condition," and it's been a Scenic Area since 1964. (Carol Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons)
The American Society of Foresters recognized the Gaudineer Scenic Area in 1983 for its "near-natural condition," and it's been a Scenic Area since 1964. (Carol Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons)
May 16, 2017

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – A conservation group wants to designate an old-growth forest in every county in the United States that has forestland - and four in West Virginia already are on the list.

The Old Growth Forest Network says 95 percent of the nation's original forestland has been removed or altered - and forests in West Virginia are no exception.

Vivian Stockman, vice-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said it's important to preserve the remaining forestland for future generations to enjoy - but also for its ecological benefits to the environment.

"Forests certainly have incredible value in terms of flood control, air purification, water purification," she said. "Types of services that full-grown forests can offer are valuable not just to our human soul, but to our economic bottom line."

Stockman noted that many West Virginia forests fell to development years ago, and those that remain continue to be fragmented by mountaintop-removal mining and fracking-related activity.

The four that are part of the old-growth network so far are Cathedral and Carnifex Ferry state parks, the Stonecliff area of the New River Gorge, and the Gaudineer Scenic Area in the Monongahela National Forest.

According to Joan Maloof, executive director of the Old Growth Forest Network, about three out of four counties nationwide have forests worth preserving. She said tall trees help identify an older forest, but tree age isn't the only consideration.

"You will find some trees that are larger than you would find in a more recently logged forest, and they're home for so many organisms: so much fungi, so many insects, so many reptiles and amphibians," she explained.

Maloof said volunteers are key to saving forests across the country and her group is looking for people who can help.

They also take nominations for areas to be considered for inclusion in the Old-Growth Forest Network, online at oldgrowthforest.net.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WV