Wising Up to Wise Use of Our Woods

Jack Savage | March 19, 2011

It’s not easy being a logger. Members of the public love to hate you for making what looks like a mess. Prices at the mill never seem to be good, the cost of fuel keeps going up, and the capital investment in the right equipment is substantial. And even then, the weather can change quickly, forcing you to pull your equipment out of the woods on a winter job because of a thaw—operating in muddy conditions is something you don’t want to do. Respect for the resource is the most important tool in the shed.

Still, there are plenty of people in the timber harvesting industry who overcome all those obstacles to make a living while providing a local renewable resource and leave behind a healthy, growing woodlot by using agreed-upon Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Then there are those who don’t.

In the past, finding a way to discourage those who wantonly disregard BMPs and subsequently violate wetlands regulations has been difficult. But state Attorney General Michael Delaney announced this week that the Superior Courts in Grafton and Merrimack Counties approved $100,000 in fines for Gary Bardsley, David Porter, Jr., and Linda Griffin following a lawsuit by the state.

According to the Attorney General, the Defendants violated State wetlands laws and regulations by failing to follow Best Management Practices for Erosion Control at two logging sites in Webster (off Little Hill Road) and Groton (off Halls Brook Road).  As a result, numerous wetlands and streams were filled with mud and sediment, and other wetlands and streams were damaged through the use of logging equipment on improperly designed crossings

“Streams and wetlands play important roles in channeling, filtering and absorbing runoff,” said Tom Burack, Commissioner of the Dept. of Environmental Services. “Improper logging practices can alter natural runoff conditions and degrade the quality of our state’s surface waters and wetlands.”

As part of the settlement, half the amount of the fines will be permanently suspended if the defendants do not significantly violate State wetlands laws again within five years of the entry of the settlement agreement. Defendants Porter and Bardsley have also agreed to enroll in and complete coursework toward the N.H. Timberland Owners Association’s Professional Logger Certification Program. This is clearly designed to prompt the defendants to do the right thing going forward.

Landowners, conservationists and forest products industry professionals alike should applaud this action by the Attorney General, the DES, and the Department of Resources and Economic Development. We don’t like to over-regulate ourselves n New Hampshire, but how we operate in the woods matters as do the regulations surrounding those operations. We shouldn’t put the best operators, who follow the rules, at a disadvantage by failing to enforce the law when others ignore it.

Any landowner interested in understanding how to manage their forestland appropriately can start by taking a look at the newly updated version of Good Forestry in the Granite State. An on-line version is available for free at http://extension.unh.edu/goodforestry/index.htm or people can call 800-444-8978 to obtain a copy.

Jack Savage is the editor of Forest Notes: New Hampshire’s Conservation Magazine published by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. He can be reached at jsavage@forestsociety.org.