Heritage Trees in the Upper Cheat River Project Area

By John Coleman

There are now two state listed champion trees within the Forest Service’s proposed logging in the Upper Cheat River area. We just learned that a hemlock we found is 3rd largest in the state. With surveys this winter, volunteers have so far found and measured 293 trees in the Upper Cheat River Project area that are greater than eight feet circumference. That included red, white and chestnut oaks, sugar maples, beech, tulip poplars, black cherries, hemlocks and basswoods. 

Unfortunately, so far, we have made it to only three of the 120 stands proposed to be clearcut by the Forest Service. So, who knows how many more big trees there are out there.

We were gratified to find that 15 of the 221 large trees found this winter were Eastern Hemlocks in stand R45. Stand R45 really is a special place. The champion tree of the winter’s surveys was one of those hemlocks, that we have since learned qualifies as the third largest hemlock in West Virginia. 

The West Virginia Division of Forestry visited the tree, verified our measurements and the state forester wrote that the tree tied for third place in the state’s Big Tree Program. In conjunction with a 17-foot circumference Northern Red Oak that has been on the state list since 2015, there are now two state listed trees in or immediately adjacent to stand R45. With these two state listed champion trees, one inside and one very near Stand R45, we hope that the Forest Service will reconsider clearcutting stand R45. 

Keep an eye on the Friends of Blackwater web page and the Speak4Trees2 Facebook page this summer for announcement of hikes to these champion trees that overlook Camp Horseshoe of the Monongahela National Forest.