Nearly 40 people are urging the Vermont Natural Resources Agency to suspend logging at Camel’s Hump State Park until the agency develops additional safeguards and standards for land management there , which, according to the petitioners, is required by law.
Standing Trees, a Montpelier-based organization that campaigns for forest protection, filed a petition Tuesday saying the agency had developed its most recent management plan for Camel’s Hump and nearby public lands without the necessary rules in place.
The petition cites a Vermont law that requires state officials to “adopt and publish rules” for timber harvesting in state forests and parks.
Michael Snyder, the commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, said he appreciates the interest in land management at the state’s most iconic peak. But his first impression was that the petition was “misguided”, he said, and actually sought to end logging on public lands more generally.
Snyder said the Natural Resources Agency will provide a fuller response to the petition after he and other officials have had more time to review it.
Camel’s Hump’s management plan, released in December 2021, allows approximately 3,750 acres of timber to be harvested within the management area over the next 15 years. This area is approximately 26,000 acres and includes Camel’s Hump State Park, Camel’s Hump State Forest, and Robbins Mountain and Huntington Gap Wildlife Management Areas.
James Dumont, who is the attorney for Standing Trees, said the state’s formal rule-making process, detailed in the law, involves issuing an environmental impact statement, reviewing alternative options, public comments and input from the Legislative Assembly.
For projects on public land, public consultation is essential, he said.
“In the face of climate, water quality and extinction emergencies, the State of Vermont must enact rules to govern the management of public lands,” said Zack Porter, executive director of Standing Trees, in a statement. Press release. “He cannot legally cut down a single tree in the Camel’s Hump management unit until he is in compliance with the law.”
Snyder pointed to hundreds of public comments the state received while developing the 2021 management plan, adding that the process allows for “much stronger” input from the public than the regulations sought by the petitioners.
Dumont said these comments are several years old, as they were based on a draft management plan published in 2017. He argued that more up-to-date public input was needed.
“I feel great with the plan,” Snyder said. “I feel good about implementing existing policies, within the law and guided by science. And we are doing it.
The petitioners said the state’s 2021 management plan is based on written procedures from 2008 and 1995 that were established without a rule-making process. They believe that these procedures also need to be updated. “The world has changed a lot,” Dumont said.
According to Vermont law, if a state agency uses a written policy that has not been adopted by rulemaking, it must go through a rulemaking process at the request of 25 or more people, according to the petition. The Standing Trees petition has garnered 38 signatures.
In a letter outlining the petition to Natural Resources Agency leaders, Dumont said updated forest management rules should take into account current state policy as well as data showing how future logging could impact carbon sequestration, endangered species, habitat fragmentation and water quality in the Camel. Bump management area.
The petitioners asked the state to respond to them within 30 days.
Snyder said he believes the petition is “cherry picking” a feature of state law, adding that the same section of the law allows state officials to “sell forest products and d ‘other resources on public lands’.
Stopping logging on public lands is a ‘conversation-worthy’ idea, Snyder said, though he feels the petition unfairly portrays responsible timber harvests, which support the state’s demand for products. ligneous, in a bad light.
By limiting timber harvesting in Vermont, “we’re just exporting that demand to other places on the planet,” the commissioner said. “It’s borderline environmental injustice and a bit of an elitist approach to things here.”
Under the 2021 plan, the 3,750 acres allowed for timber harvesting is about half of the total area suitable for harvesting. Most of the area will be harvested using uneven-aged techniques, he says. This means that individual trees or usually small groups of trees will be removed, with the aim of eventually regenerating new trees.
Jamison Ervin, a United Nations Development Program Vermont scientist who is involved in the petition effort, said the Camel’s Hump management area has old-growth forests that are particularly good at capturing and storing carbon dioxide. carbon from the atmosphere.
Ervin is not opposed to logging, she said, although she fears that continued extraction of the region’s timber will help Vermont meet its legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution, defined in the Global Warming Solutions Act 2020.
“Over the next 15 years, this huge amount of biomass is going to be reduced,” said the Duxbury resident. “But it’s not just biomass. We are tearing the fabric of this forest.
She said she was also concerned about the impact logging trucks carrying more than 500 million pounds of timber could have on local roads and bridges. And clearing parts of the forest, she said, could reduce the amount of water absorbed during major storms such as Tropical Storm Irene, making the region more vulnerable to flooding.
Ervin and others involved in the petition also said that without additional rules in place, informed by updated public comment, the Camel’s Hump management plan does not provide adequate protections for endangered species. .
Dumont’s letter asks state officials to refrain from bidding or entering into contracts for timber harvesting in the management area unless officials complete field studies to determine the roosting and feeding grounds of the Northern Myotis, one of five endangered species. or endangered bat species in Vermont.
Officials would then have to either exclude those areas from harvesting, Dumont said, or apply for a “take permit,” which would allow work to continue.
Snyder disputed the claim that the 2021 plan does not offer adequate protections.
“We have Fish and Wildlife professionals who are part of our team here who have developed these plans,” he said. “And they’re thinking about the habitats of endangered species.”
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