Comments from Readers on the Balsam Rescue Operation

Dear WVHC,

I read your article in the July 2000 Highlands Voice on re-establishing a viable stand of Canaan Fir in the Canaan Valley and adjacent areas. I want to help. I planned on vacationing in the Canaan Valley with my family during the last week in August. I could adjust my plans to arrive a few days earlier and help you on Aug. 19th and 20th.

Your effort is an important one. The Canaan fir is a valuable tree and should be preserved in its native environment. As you know, millions of these trees are growing in other states as the Christmas tree industry has found them to be promising. Unfortunately, most of these trees were grown from the same small seed orchard on Red Cooperís farm. The gene pool is much larger and should be sustained for future generations. I want to help "save the pieces."

Please share any particulars you may have regarding where and when to meet and what equipment you may need if any, such as extension ladders and pitch remover. I can bring some of what you may need.

Please apply my small contribution (sent separately) to this worthy effort.

Matt Mongin

Matt grows Christmas trees in Ohio


I very much enjoyed your article on Balsam Fir var. "phanerolepis" in the July 2000 "Highlands Voice." Living as I do in northern Ohio, and with two boys to watch, I cannot assist you on the weekend of 19-20 August, but I will send in a check. Also, I am backpacking with my boys in the Seneca Creek/Spruce Knob area next week, and I will keep an eye out for Balsam. (I know itís unlikely that Iíll find anything. However, Iíve found all sorts of unexpected things by following my boys on their adventures.)

Aldo Leopold wrote that "to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering" in his essay "Conservation." This essay appeared in Round River: From the Journals of Aldo Leopold, edited by Luna B. Leopold (Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 1953) page 147. It was reprinted in the expanded printing of Sand County Almanac, namely A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River (Sierra Club/Ballantine, San Francisco, 1966) page 190.


Dan Styer



Sounds like yíall had a productive and fun weekend. Weíre supporting your admirable efforts as best we can. Iíve been following the e-mails on the subject of Wilderness collection and as you know, weíre still concerned. But, I know weíll come to a mutually acceptable solution. Keep up the great work and work safely.

Chuck Myers

Chuck is the Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest


Dave -

Thanks for the fir update. Iím glad the cone-collecting project went well. Wish I could join in, but I always work weekends in my store. The reason I am a little familiar with the firs on Black Mountain is because I spend large amounts of time up in the national forest - - I think of it as my "second home."

Eric Domboski


I had a great time on Saturday. Count me in for the Aug 19th "Gathering of the Coneheads"

Mike Breiding

Mike is a "naturalist extraordinaire" and a trails advocate


Great article in the Gazette, and great move all around!

Viv Stockman

Viv is with the Ohio Valley Coalition



Bill and I will help on the 19th. Daniel will probably help as well. Great Job!

Emily Grafton

Emily is the newsletter editor of the West Virginia Native Plant Society


Good luck with the balsam project, Dave.....but a better solution would be for the DNR [West Virginia Department of Natural Resources] to stop "raising deer"!! I read somewhere that only 8% of the population hunts, and the DNR spends bunches of $ and time increasing the deer herd that threatens the flora of West Virginia. Iíve not heard about the balsam, but Iím not surprised, either. About ten years ago, I heard some old-timer bemoan the fact that whole communities of wildflowers were being extirpated in the woods of WV because of deer eating every one in sight!

Jean Neely


Noticed the article and calendar information in the Highlands Voice. I would like to be involved. Also wanted to let you know that the Mountain Retreat Lodge at Harman is open that weekend if your group would need lodging in the area. Check out our web site at <>

In front of the lodge is a large balsam fir which came from the Thompson farm in Canaan Valley. We would like to collect the seeds and would consider planting young balsams on the retreat property if and when available. Please advise us of how to be a part of the project.


Mary Beth Lind


Hi Dave,

If youíre still looking for help, me [sic] and Petra are volunteering for Saturday, July 29th. I can climb, carry and/or haul -- whatever works best. Petra wonít want to climb, but I think she is game for the other options.

Please let us know where and when to meet, and what if anything besides personal items that we should bring with us. See ya!

John Wood



Bill Grafton told me of the Balsam Fir seed collection on the weekend of July 29 and 30 at our West Virginia Native Plant Society meeting, held this past Saturday. Iíll be up to Franklin attending a dinner with the Dalen family on the evening of the 29th. I have to be back to work that Sunday at 7:00 p.m. in Mason County. So, perhaps I could volunteer a few hours on Saturday morning. Maybe at the Blister Swamp area as Iíve botanized in there many times over the years? Contact me with more information.

Oh yeah. I work for American Electric Power. I may be able to get a couple dozen gloves for the seed collection. These are the leather/cloth combination type glove. Would you like for me to see if I can get them?

Steve Mace

Steve Mace is a past president of the West Virginia Native Plant Society


Mr. Saville,

Thank you for doing so much for helping to save our forests. Keep up the good work.

Walter Bosley


The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was pleased to cooperate with the recent request to partner with the Highlands Conservancy and the NRCS in an effort to conserve balsam fir trees in West Virginia. Volunteers for the Highlands Conservancy spent many long hours in tall ladders collecting seeds from two locations on the Refuge. This effort will provide a safety net for the genetic stock of balsam fir trees on the refuge as they are slowly disappearing from Canaan Valley and much of West Virginia. Between the balsam wooly adelgid and heavy deer browse pressure, balsam fir trees are facing a grim future without any intervention by land managers. The Refuge hopes that seed collected by the Highlands Conservancy can be used as replacement stock in future years for the dying trees today. This subspecies of balsam fir is unique for West Virginia and is part of the Canaan Valleyís ecological heritage. The US Fish & Wildlife Service will work to protect this rare subspecies of fir to maintain the biological diversity of the Refuge and the Canaan Valley as a whole. The seed collection project is an important step to conserve this rare tree species. The Canaan Valley NWR will continue to work with partners to prevent the loss of balsam fir from West Virginia.

Ken Strum,

Ken is a Wildlife Biologist with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge



The weekend of Aug. 19-20 was a wonderful experience that I will not soon forget. It was inspiring on many levels. The land, and mountains still retain a sense of the natural processes that cannot be duplicated in an intensively managed area. I felt like I made a bunch of good friends and really enjoyed everyoneís company and their shared interest in the natural world. Also I would like to give you a lot of credit for the way you crafted the partnerships on this project and made each person feel like they played an important role in preserving a beautiful tree species.

The Mountain Institute was really interesting and I had wished to hear more about their projects. It would be great to spend some more time there.

This week I will be meeting with people at the National Plant Material Center here in Greenbelt, looking at a contractual arrangement to do seed collections for them and getting ready for a new academic year here at the college.

I really hope to work with the WVHC again and am already thinking of a reason to come back to West Virginia.

Bill Grauer



My wife and I enjoyed working with your group. Nice people all. Saturday night Trout Unlimited held their first meeting of our newest chapter in West Virginia, The Blackwater Chapter. We are always looking to shade trout streams in the area to maintain the coolest temperatures that are possible . This of course in a desire to mimic stream conditions before the logging boom when they ran shaded. Stream banks back then were stable, able to take a good rain without sediment pouring in from road ditches and their culverts.

I mentioned the work you were doing at our meeting and also read in your Conservancy newsletter that parts of Shaver Fork were being re-seeded with Red Spruce and Fir seedlings from collections made in that area. Our chapter as well as the Timberline Homeowners would like to collect cones from stands in Timberline and have them professionally raised in hopes of replanting in Timberline with 8' deer fencing. We in Timberline plan to erect around a few groves after Board approval Sept. 9th. We should be able to collect cones before then since Bruce Stennit (a member of TU and in charge of the Timberline Conservancy) expressed interest in collecting cones right away. Our Trout Unlimited would also like to plant some of these Firs in hopes of furthering the species and helping to restore stream bank conditions. These seedlings would be planted with fencing around the individual plants and placed in similar conditions to where they seem to propagate best naturally. In the future these plantings could hopefully be fully fenced off by groves also in hopes of allowing the natural reproduction to continue unharmed by the growing deer pop.


1. Is it possible to accomplish some or all of these goals?

2. For your next collection date in Aug. could you come to Timberline for a day to collect? If you think you could I will be happy to scour our area for sufficient stands to make it worth our while. Let me know your views and I will send you a tree count of this area with a cone crop report included now that I know what to look for.

John Anderson

John is a member of the Annapolis, MD, Chapter of Trout Unlimited



I was glad to hear that your collection efforts of Balsam Fir cones were successful, not only at Canaan Valley State Park, but elsewhere as well.

This project is sizeable in scope and we are very appreciative of the efforts of the Highlands Conservancy, yourself and the numerous volunteers who make it work. The collection process is a difficult, time-consuming task and if it were not for the efforts of the Conservancy, we might someday not have stands of Balsam Fir for future generations to enjoy.

Thank you for your efforts. Please contact us if there is anyway we can assist.

Rob Gilligan

Rob is the Superintendent of the Canaan Valley State Park