West Virginia forestry chief against agency transfer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry says the division shouldn’t be transferred to the Department of Agriculture, a move promoted by that agency’s commissioner.

Forestry Director Barry Cook told legislators at interim meetings Tuesday that the division should remain under the Department of Commerce, which oversees agencies related to economic development. Cook is quoted by the Charleston Gazette-Mail as saying his division is “an economic driver for the state.”

Pendleton County Democratic Delegate Isaac Sponaugle says he’s concerned that foresters would become will-and-pleasure employees under the Department of Agriculture. Currently they have civil service protection.

Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt contends that trees are a crop, and the forestry division would best be managed under his agency.

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