Publication Details

The Fernow Experimental Forest and Canaan Valley: A history of research

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Southeastern Naturalist. 14(7): 433-440.


The Fernow Experimental Forest (herein called the Fernow) in Tucker County, WV, was set aside in 1934 for “experimental and demonstration purposes under the direction of the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station” of the US Forest Service. Named after a famous German forester, Bernhard Fernow, the Fernow was initially developed with considerable assistance from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Shut down temporarily during World War II, the Fernow was reopened in 1948 as an outdoor laboratory and classroom with the purpose of conducting research that would be useful to the forest landowners and managers throughout the Central Appalachians. Early research focused on the silvicultural management of high-value hardwoods and the effects of various forest management schemes on water quantity and quality. Over time, additional research projects in wildlife, soil science, ecology, air quality, and other environmental topics were included. Today, the Fernow is involved in long-term silvicultural and hydrological research, as well as shorter-term, more topical research projects on the effects of air pollution on wilderness areas, developing management guidelines for threatened and endangered wildlife species, the uses of prescribed fire for managing hardwood stands, and the restoration of the Red Spruce–northern hardwood ecosystem. We include examples of the Fernow’s significant findings and conclusions over the years, as well as anecdotes of contributions to West Virginia’s quality of life.


Adams, Mary Beth; Kochenderfer, James N. 2015. The Fernow Experimental Forest and Canaan Valley: A history of research. Southeastern Naturalist. 14(7): 433-440.

Last updated on: December 14, 2015