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Fernow Experimental Forest

The area that is now Fernow Experimental Forest, located on Elk Lick Run in the Monongahela National Forest, was recognized in 1934 as a typical example of West Virginia timberlands, based on plant and animal diversity, topography, timbering history, and climate. The forested watershed was set aside by the U.S. Forest Service for research use and named in memory of Bernhard E. Fernow, a pioneer in American forestry research. The experimental forest now totals 4,700 acres and concentrates on sustainable management and the impact of human activity on managed forestland.

Early research under the direction of George R. Trimble Jr. dealt with establishing and growing quality hardwoods. K. G. Reinhart simultaneously directed watershed research relating to floods and water yield. During the 1980s, Clay Smith directed research of various harvesting methods on the oaks, maples, beech, yellow poplar, and other trees common at Fernow. James H. Patric and Jim Kochenderfer continued leadership in water research with special emphasis on logging roads.

The headquarters for the Fernow Experimental Forest is the Timber and Watershed Lab located in Parsons. This lab was severely damaged by the November 1985 flood, but was renovated and continues to be a critical research unit for the U.S. Forest Service.

Written by William N. Grafton