On August 4, 2016, Chris Zinkhan, CEO of The Forestland Group, provided the keynote presentation at an event organized by the West Virginia University School of Natural Resources and held at the Canaan Valley Resort. Entitled Impact Investing: The Case for West Virginia Forests, Zinkhan highlighted the logical fit which those resources have for impact-investment capital. West Virginia is the third most forested state in the US, rich with hardwoods. Those forests annually generate ecological services worth billions of dollars to society and the environment in the form of contribution to control of climate, water regulation and erosion control, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Increasingly, landowners are finding mechanisms for monetizing some of those ecological services. Furthermore, given the sharp decline in coal production and employment, there is an obvious need for sustainable employment in West Virginia. Accelerating the flow of capital to the forestry, forest-products processing, and logging sectors could improve the productivity of all three of these components, expand the base of sustainable employment, and increase the flow of ecological services.
The event was in conjunction with a graduate course for school teachers from across the state, which focuses on economics and the environment. It was also attended by WVU faculty and students, industry leaders, legislators, and other public officials.
Zinkhan is a member of the Visiting Committee of WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.