West Virginia is a state with vast natural resources—timber, oil, gas, and, most famously, coal. Those non-renewable resources are quickly disappearing and, with them, the hope for West Virginia's future unless we create a Future Fund—a mineral trust fund—to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Since the 1880s, much of West Virginia's wealth has left the state in railcars and trucks.
The local businesses that lined the main streets of Logan and Welch as late as the 1970s are gone, replaced by empty storefronts and broken dreams. More coal has been mined in McDowell County than any other county in West Virginia. Yet today, McDowell County is one of the ten poorest counties in the United States in terms of per capita income, education levels of its citizens and the quality of their health and well being.
Today our state stands on the cusp of a natural gas boom as drilling has begun in the Marcellus Shale. Like coal in the last century, the gas industry is susceptible to booms and busts. This economic uncertainty can be addressed if we create a Future Fund by setting aside a portion of natural resource severance taxes.
We can't go back and restore to McDowell or Logan counties a portion of the wealth that has left West Virginia. But we have the opportunity to do better for tomorrow's West Virginians by ensuring that future generations will continue to benefit from our state's natural wealth.
Video by AFSC intern Adrienne Miranda and AFSC staff Bryan Vana