By Ken Ward Jr.
When the state Legislature passed the 1992 Logging Sediment Control Act, lawmakers concluded "that some activities associated with the commercial harvesting of timber results in the exposure of soil and that, if uncontrolled, such exposed soil can erode, resulting in gullying, soil slippages and sediment deposition in streams."
Lawmakers also stated: "It is the policy of this state to strengthen and extend the present sediment control activities of this state by implementing operator licensing, logger certification and logging operations notification programs through the Division of Forestry."
Here's what the law actually does:
- Anyone conducting timber operations, purchasing timber or buying logs for resale must obtain a license from the director of the Division of Forestry.
Applicants for licenses must pay a $50 fee every year. They must also submit their name, address, telephone number and the names and addresses of the principals, officers and resident agent of the business entity.
License applicants must also submit their West Virginia business registration number or a copy of the current West Virginia business registration certificate. The Forestry Division must submit that information to the state Tax Commissioner to ensure compliance with payment of severance, income withholding and other applicable taxes.
- Every timber operation must have at least one person working who has completed a Forestry Division certification course.
These courses are supposed to provide education and training in the safe conduct of timbering operations, first-aid procedures, and the use of best management practices to prevent soil erosion.
- Anyone conducting timbering operations must notify the Forestry Division within three days of the beginning of the operation of the specific location of their operation.
Notifications are supposed to contain the specific topographic location of the timbering operation, the approximate dates the operation will begin and end, and the approximate acreage to be timbered.
The notifications are also supposed to include the names and addresses of the owner or owners of the timber to be harvested and, if different, the names and addresses of the owner or owners of the property upon which the timber is located.
Also, notifications are supposed to include a sketch map of the proposed logging operation, including haul roads, landings and stream crossings, as well as a description of the sediment control practices to be used by the logger.
The 1992 law also sets up a complicated scheme of actions the Forestry Division and the state Division of Environmental Protection can take if a logging operation is polluting a stream.
It works like this:
- If the forestry director finds that the failure to use a particular best management practice is causing or contributing, or has the potential to cause of contribute, to soil erosion or water pollution, the director must order the operator to take corrective action.
The order shall mandate compliance within a reasonable and practical time, not to exceed 10 days. The person subject to the order may appeal the order within 48 hours of its issuance to a panel, called a conference panel, of foresters.
- If the chief of the DEP Office of Water Resources finds problems at a timber operation, the chief must notify the forestry director and allow the Forestry Division to handle the situation. If the Forestry Division does not take action within 3 days, the DEP may ask the conference panel to force some sort of action.
- The forestry director must order immediate suspension of a timber operation if observed damage or circumstance on a logging operation are sufficient to endanger life or result in uncorrectable soil erosion or water pollution. An immediate suspension order must also be issued if the logger supervising an operation is not certified.
- The forestry director may suspend the license of any person conducting a timbering operation or the certification of any logger supervising an operation, for 30 to 90 days if the person is found to be violating the act.
- The forestry director may seek and recover civil fines for any violation of the act. The fines must be sought in circuit court in the county where the violation occurred. The fines may be no more than $2,500 for the first offense and no more than $5,000 for any subsequent offense.
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