The Nature Conservancy, known for preserving landscapes by buying land and development rights, is considering logging as another
tool to protect forest land in Virginia. As the coal industry has begun to wane in the southwest portion of the state, timber
cutting has increased. According to a survey by the state Department of Forestry, the amount of hardwood cut has doubled since
1986 and softwood harvests have increased sevenfold.
By using selective logging and less destructive methods of harvesting timber, the conservancy hopes to boost the local economy,
while avoiding environmental damage. The organization is considering purchasing a mill that would supply lumber as well as
specialty woods for craftsmen and furniture-makers. At the same time, it would eliminate some of the ugly clear-cuts that impact
the regional tourism industry, and protect the scenic Clinch River watershed from runoff that chokes streams with mud and silt.
The Clinch River is home to nearly 50 rare species of fish and mussels.
Since 1960, the conservancy has purchased more than 210,000 acres of land and conservation easements in Virginia and anticipates
adding more acreage. Purchasing timber rights from the many small landowners in the area would allow the ownership to remain in
local hands while the conservancy manages the land and supplies the timber to create new employment opportunities in the area.
The Nature Conservancy hopes to tie the environment to the economy by providing jobs through good forest management.