Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Horrendous Town Logging Project

Conway, Massachusetts used to have a Town Forest.  Jack Lockhead, former Conway Selectboard Member, who spearheaded logging on town lands, recently called it the Town Woodlot.  If there aren't any trees, I guess you can't call it the Town Forest anymore.   I recently toured the area and found large tracts with few, if any, trees.  This used to be a beautiful forested area.  Not it is a ugly, virtual clear cut full of ticks, prickers, and slash.   

When I first inquired about the project, I was told they were going to thin out some non-native species such as Norway Spruce and Red Pine.  These species were planted by the CCC in the 1930s.  A bad idea but these areas support large populations of red squirrels.  In turn, you see lots of predator and predator tracks in these areas:  weasels, coyotes, fishers, and bobcats.  These tree species don't spread but the wood is valuable and the logging industry, in their quest to make logging sound good, latched onto this as a way to make logging more palatable.  Of course, they don't tell you that they also take out large amounts of adjacent hardwoods.  Unless you know enough check the logging plan, you would have no way of knowing this.  There was a very large area of hardwood forest, again a formerly beautiful forest, that was heavily logged.  It is a shadow of its former self.  The Conway State Forest has a similar project planned, again with the Red Pine and Norway Spruce being used as a cover to take out lots of other species.  They use to tell us that is was important to leave slash for animals and for the soil.  Now that the slash is a possible source of biomass fuel, it is no longer important for the soil or animals, I guess.  I wish the logging industry would at least be honest with us.

The biggest problem with the project was the oil spills.   The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), decided to put the landing, where the logs are loaded onto trucks, within 50 feet of a large wetland area, which is a violation of the recommended Logging Best Practices document endorsed by the state.  This landing area is on my daily 3 mile log run, which I do with my 2 dogs, and used to enjoy tremendously until the logging project started.  I started to notice frequent oil spill from both the skidders, forwarders, and the large logging trucks that take the wood out.  Even though the supervisor tried to provide absorbent pads to the loggers, the loggers subcontracted by Lashway Lumber refused to use them. 

The DCR and the Town were horrendous and refused to acknowledge the issue despite photographic evidence and lab reports, done at my expense, documenting the oil and hydraulic fluid leaks.  I documented 18 spills covering over 100 square feet of land and water, most of which were adjacent to the wetland system.  The wetland system feeds the Town of Deerfield's water supply.  We were confronted with strong petrochemical daily on our beautiful trails.   Despite frequent attempts to address the issue with the town, the DCR, the DEP, and the Conservation Commission, the loggers continued to spill oil.  The forester would come up and put down pads herself after I complained and after oil was spilled.  Worst of all, these officials all denied the issue and responsibility, despite massive evidence to the contrary.  At one point, six of us that live in the area were disturbed by the strong petrochemical smells.  DCR Service Forester Alison Wright said she could not smell or see any problems.  Only after the area was heavily bulldozed to cover up the oil spills and pretty things up, was I able to get the CC, DCR, DEP, and Town to tour the area.  Even though I showed my lab reports, and oil spills the bulldozers had missed, the DCR sent a curt report saying they broke no laws.  I was told by a source in the logging industry that the DEP deliberately delayed the meeting until the area was bulldozed and the evidence covered up. DCR forester Alison Wright called the project an exemplary foresting project.  If this project was exemplary, I would hate to see the bad projects. 

I am still trying to get the DCR to move the landing for an upcoming state forest logging project but the DCR logger in charge is still denying the issue and using the term "so-called oil spills." Why the officials can't acknowledge the issue and make reasonable efforts to address citizen concerns really perplexes me.  Hopefully, the state project, which is on hold, will be canceled because the land will be added to a reserve under the new visioning project.  I found that the oil spills were disturbed and came back to the surface when a salvage project was completed on the Town Forest.  That's why the landing should be moved for future projects.  The DCR refused to let the forester move the landing away from the wetland for the salvage project.  It's hard to understand why the would not allow the project to reduce the chance of polluting the water supply if it was easy to do so. 

The thinning of the Red Pine and Norway Spruce, was supposed to protect the forest from wind and ice damage.  Oops, that didn't work.  A salvage project, which removed the great majority of remaining trees in the Red Pine and Norway Spruce area, was completed after the ice storm of 2008. See photo above.

See http://www.jheffernan.com/Logging.htm for more details on this project.  

Photo of an absorbent pad.  Before I complained about these leaks, the fluids were spilling directly on the forest floor. 

This spill was adjacent to a vernal pool.


D.O. said...

Lashway Lumber screws up a logging operation and Alison Wright supplies cover.....surprise! It's the same old/same old in Biomessachusetts. As always, there's mindless logging, then there's real forestry. We look forward to the latter.....someday!

Unknown said...

This is an outrageous violation of multiple laws. With all the effort put in to the "Forest Futures Vision" process and the state being under a microscope on this they STILL CAN'T GET IT RIGHT!