Sunrise over wetlands at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia.
Hemlock tree at sunrise Sunrise over wetlands at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. © Kent Mason

Stories in West Virginia

Working Woodlands

Engaging landowners in restoring forestlands to their ecological and economic potential.

The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands program accelerates large-scale forest protection by assisting private landowners in protecting their working forestlands with conservation easements. This includes promoting sustainable timber production and providing landowners with a new income stream by selling carbon credits generated by the forest.

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Read about one family's experience with Working Woodlands.

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Why does West Virginia need the Working Woodlands program?

West Virginia’s forests are among the most biodiverse and resilient in North America and are home to a rich array of plants, animals and unique landforms. These forests provide clean air and water to millions of people in the eastern United States, act as an avenue of migration for a multitude of species affected by climate change and store vast amounts of carbon.

Recent surveys by The Nature Conservancy indicate that 80 percent of all forest harvesting in West Virginia is via high grading, a poor management technique that removes only the best timber from a forest, and therefore degrades carbon stocks, timber quality and wildlife habitat over time.

While high grading may increase timber revenue from the first harvest, it results in a 35 percent reduction in net present value of timber over the rotation of a forest due to loss of commercial species over time. These commercial species lost from the stand are some of the most valuable mast-producing species for wildlife as well. Further, health and resilience of a forest is diminished over time through high grading techniques.

The Working Woodlands program provides economic benefits to private landowners through the sale of carbon credits and value added from sustainable forest products certification and ecologically-sound forest management plans to assist landowners in maintaining the quality and health of their forests.

How to Participate in West Virginia's Working Woodlands Program

The Working Woodlands program is currently seeking landowners with large properties in West Virginia that may constitute good demonstration sites or contribute to the goal of connectivity within the Central Appalachians. Much of this area lay along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains in a north-south corridor that connects the southern Appalachians to the northern Appalachians.

Landowners who own a minimum of 2,000 forested acres may be eligible to enroll their property into Working Woodlands. To enroll in Working Woodlands, a qualifying landowner is required to sign their forested acres into conservation easements or long-term management agreements to prevent conversion into non-forest uses and unsustainable management practices. 

Interested landowners should contact workingwoodlands@tnc.org with the following information (which will be kept strictly confidential):

  • Name/Email/Telephone Number
  • Total Acres/Total Wooded Acres
  • Property Address
  • County
  • Tax Map ID#

After the certification process facilitated by The Nature Conservancy, these properties then become part of a network of voluntary carbon offset projects that collectively have an impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For questions about Working Woodlands in West Virginia contact Aaron Holley at aaron.holley@tnc.org or (304) 703-1756.