Dave Arnold, Zipline Operator

Fayetteville, West Virginia

Find out how he is making a living from healthy forests!

Paul Bunyan the lumberjack made a living out of harvesting trees. But healthy forests provide a living for many, many other people, like West Virginia resident Dave Arnold.


What do you do?

Dave Arnold:

I’m part owner and founder Treetops Canopy Tour, a half-day aerial adventure of ziplines and bridges in an old-growth hemlock-and-hardwood forest near West Virginia’s New River Gorge. For more than 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to earn a living through the beauty of West Virginia’s forest and wild rivers, first as a New River raft guide and later as an outdoor adventure entrepreneur promoting rafting, rock-climbing, fishing and hospitality. Treetops is the most recent venture.


How does a healthy forest help you earn a living?

Dave Arnold:

Obviously this is a sustainable model for preservation. We have about 20,000 visitors and do about a million dollars in revenue at Treetops and employ about 50 people. Obviously, this makes the land more valuable than timber or anything else you could do. There are not that many all-win scenarios in the world, but this is one of them.


What do you hope for the future of your forest?

Dave Arnold:

My principal hope is that we somehow figure out how to eradicate the hemlock woolly adelgid (an invasive insect that is fatal to hemlock). Zeus, the largest hemlock on our zipline tour, has been here since before Europeans arrived. It is 400 to 600 years old, and we hope the adelgid doesn’t kill it. We’re spending a portion of every booking to treat thousands of hemlocks in our forest, keeping them alive until a more permanent solution can be found.


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