On January 20, 2021

New group calls for end to logging on Vermont’s public land, state objects

By Eesha Williams

A new Vermont group is working to stop logging on publicly-owned land in the state — including in the Green Mountain National Forest near Rochester. The group, Standing Trees Vermont supports banning logging on publicly owned land and, instead, encourages logging companies to buy their own land. If the companies want to stay in business long-term, they would also need to plant trees after logging, rather than selling the logged land for development.

Standing Trees Vermont is a coalition of several environmental groups, including Restore the North Woods run by Michael Kellett, who was a key player in the creation of the 87,400 acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

For members of the coalition, and many others, clear cuts intuitively look and feel wrong. Standing Trees Vermont posts photos on its website of clear cuts taken in recent months in Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF). According to the site, “43,440 acres, or 68 square miles, or 33,000 football fields (of GMNF) will soon be logged…. and only 3% of Vermont is permanently protected to reach old forest status.”

Michael Snyder commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation, however, disagrees with some of the information on the Standing Trees website. “I cannot agree with what seem to be sweeping, embedded and over-simplified conclusions, that all harvesting is and must be bad and degrading and polluting, which it is not. Careful forest management using professional logging to implement thoughtful, science-based silviculture is complex, difficult, and absolutely necessary to meet astronomical — if overlooked — societal demand for forest products, goods, and services. And doing it locally is a far cry better than exporting this 24 hour/365 day demand to some distant place where they don’t care about ecology, where exploitation and extraction are all that matter.

“Forest management in Vermont is a rich and positive — if not always pure and perfect— tradition, and one of which we should be very proud, and grateful. We have benefited and continue to benefit from it in so many ways,” Snyder said. “Old, complex forests are the best, most beautiful and most resilient. And we are right to want more such forest conditions across our state. But lumping all logging of public lands into one bucket of ‘bad’ and seeing forever-wild easements as the only alternative to careful, active local stewardship is short-sighted, narrow-minded, impractical, and … in direct conflict with stated, codified policies of the state as enacted by the general assembly and entrusted to professional public servants.”

Kellett responded saying, “He describes the several centuries of logging that has done massive damage to our climate, ecosystems, soils, and watersheds as ‘not
always pure and perfect.’ Foresters would have us believe that any ‘imperfections’ are in the past, but the destruction being done by logging around the globe is a growing crisis. There is no evidence to back [Snyder’s] claim that increasing logging in New England will save forests in other parts of the world. The main cause of deforestation in the Amazon is conversion to agriculture and livestock grazing to increase beef production. Most of the wood imported to the U.S. From that region is from pine plantations that are used for plywood — not from virgin forests. More logging of New England hardwoods will not replace this plywood.”

Kellett continued by saying, “Societal demand for forest products, goods, and services… is endless and unsustainable. The United States is the biggest consumer of wood by far. We have 4% of earth’s population, and 8% of earth’s forest land, and we consume 28% of earth’s industrial wood products. More than 40% of hardwood and 15% of softwood produced in the U.S. is used for pallets, most of which are eventually burned or land-filled.”

Kellett concluded by adding, “American taxpayers subsidize logging on federal land by about $2 billion a year… The average size of a house in the U.S. has almost doubled since 1973 and living space per person has nearly doubled. U.S. homes are twice the size of typical homes in Europe or Japan. Biologists agree that we need to protect 30-50% of earth from logging to prevent massive species extinctions. Protecting nature is essential for human health and well-being. We need to change the obsolete, century-old mandates that require logging of federal and state lands. It would be a modest step to give 20% of Vermont’s land permanent protection from logging.”

Correction:

In a story titled “New group calls for end to logging on Vermont’s public land, state objects” published in the Jan. 20-26 edition, we reported that Standing Trees VT advocates for industry to purchase land to log. It does not. Rather “Our focus is to protect, preserve and restore forests on Vermont federal and state public lands, not all Vermont public lands. This includes all of the Green Mountain National Forest,” explained Mark Nelson, chair of the Conservation Commission.

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