The heat is burning up between the lawmakers and those who will be impacted by the budget cuts that went into effect March 19. Workers are appealing to lawmakers to find another solution to avoid the economic devastation this could bring to families and businesses in West Virginia.
According to Daniel Tyson, Register–Herald Reporter, The Division of Forestry’s (DoF) budget was cut by $1.7 million for the fiscal year 2017, and many of its services were either eliminated or sharply reduced.
Tyson reported that vital duties that will be most affected by the budget cuts included forest fighting jobs and logging inspections, both of which are crucial to the public safety of West Virginian citizens. Here’s what a few commenters (out of 17) had to say about the foresters that had been laid-off:
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported multiple responses from concerned citizens regarding the budget cuts, and this is what they had to say:
Estimates say more than 10,000 jobs could be lost across West Virginia. West Virginia could lose more than $500 million in income. “We are terrified of what could happen,” Dahlia said. “These cuts do not have to happen.”
Brian Jones, a firefighter from Morgantown with 17 years-experience, said like many Americans, he wants a solution.
“Like many people, I am frustrated with the inaction in Congress,” said Jones. “Public servants like firefighters have to make bold decisions in a crisis to save lives and we expect our leaders in Washington to do the same, but congressional Republicans seem totally uninterested in taking any type of action.
The tensions are high and workers are asking lawmakers to find a solution to the problem. So how does this impact Morgantown, W.Va.?
According to Angela Javurek, a masters student studying Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at West Virginia University (WVU) said, “The Division of Forestry has not developed a plan for “both prevention and suppression techniques,” regarding a wildfire emergency plan since 2006.” With an outdated emergency response plan on top of budget cuts leading to firefighters losing jobs, residents are at risk if a forest fire were to occur.
According to the WV Department of Forestry, 99% of wildfires in W.Va. are man-made, “while other sources include unattended or improperly extinguished campfires, downed power lines, and lightning,” said Javurek. Adjusting protocols — making them stronger and efficient — will help aid the remaining firefighters in the midst of such an emergency when they have less manpower and approximately 30,000 residents in Morgantown to protect.
In recent WV MetroNews, Brad McElhinny reported from the state Capitol on the struggle lawmakers are facing to find a solution. McElhinny gave a metaphor to help readers understand the struggle. The metaphor included a log rolling competition (yes, log rolling in the comical sense where two people are on one log in the water trying to keep from falling off) and on one side we have our governor and the other is the state legislators.
Both sides control the state budget and the half-billion-dollar shortfall that comes with it. Neither side can get a grip on the budget without the other.
Both of their solutions to the problem are colliding and they only have 19 days left to resolve this situation.
In response to McElhinny’s report, commentators are taking different stances on the issue:
My name is Cayla R. Nolder and I’m a Writer and Editor for Conserve the Wild and Wonderful. My next adventure will take place in Oahu, Hawaii. Follow me on Twitter to get the latest Conserve the Wild and Wonderful updates @cayla_redlon.