By Bob Weaver

About 83 tracts of timber land in Calhoun owned by Mead-Westvaco have been sold to a new company for $2,889,000. Forestland Group LLC, a company expected to supply pulp to Mead-Westvaco, has purchased 5,686 Calhoun acres from the former company.

Besides Calhoun, a total of 95,000 acres in Wirt, Wood, Ritchie, Jackson, Pleasants and Tyler have been sold. The Wirt County sale was for $22.5 million for 44,000 acres on 316 parcels.

Mead-Westvaco paid Calhoun County about $12,000 in taxes on 5,686 acres last year, according to Calhoun Assessor Jason Nettles, benefiting from a magnanimous tax break given timber corporations during the Underwood administration

The Managed Timberlands Bill was touted to help the small wood lot owner improve his tree stand, but the original 60%+ tax break has been used by large corporations who are already managing their forest land.

In Calhoun, records indicate only two small landowners enrolled in the timberland tax-break program. In Wirt County, an initial search showed only one small landowner in the program. Companies like Mead-Westvaco, Coastal, Bell Timbering, Burke Parsons Bowlby and Greer have taken advantage of the break.

Out-going Wirt County Commissioner Lention Offutt said "I understand the need for large corporations to be profitable, however, I hope Forestland Group will also have a desire to be a good neighbor and do their part to help economic development in those West Virginia counties which they are landowners."

Timber companies own about 33% of the land in Wirt County.

Offutt said such ownership "has created a negative growth effect over the years. Forestland Group could encourage development by selling some of their small, isolated tracts for residential or commercial development."

"I hope Wirt County and the new owner will have a successful relationship in the coming years," he concluded.

The Managed Timberland Bill has taken several million dollars in tax revenue from rural, forested counties, giving the money to the large corporations. Some counties experienced major financial problems.

The bill was supported by the leadership of the legislature, and delegates like Bill Stemple (Calhoun-Clay-Gilmer) said he thought the measure was "revenue-neutral" when he voted for passage.

Efforts to rescind the measure have failed, although the legislature reportedly "mellowed" the measure somewhat. READ "Mead-Westvaco Sells 95,000 Acres..." Herald 12/14/02

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