Cutting okayed despite state climate goals
By Gwendolyn Craig
The Adirondack Park Agency unanimously approved 824 acres of timber harvesting in the Perkins Clearing Tract, lands owned by Lyme Timber Co. in the Town of Lake Pleasant.
The Hamilton County tract comprises 14,379 acres and falls under a state working forest conservation easement. The APA has jurisdiction over the project because it involves clear-cutting more than 25 acres. Aaron Ziemann, a project analyst for forest resources at the APA, said the project was brought to the full board because the harvest area was greater than 500 acres.
The Adirondack Council submitted a letter against the project, and was the only commenter. Jackie Bowen, director of conservation, wrote that the harvesting seemed “at odds” with the state Climate Action Council’s recommendations.
“The APA must assess, within the context of climate change, how this permit—and future clearcut permits—impact the state’s climate goals,” Bowen said. “The Council continues to urge the Agency to develop and conduct a cumulative impact analysis of clear cutting on the wild forest character of the public and private lands in the Adirondack Park.”
Bowen did give Lyme Timber, whose headquarters are in New Hampshire, credit for applying for an APA permit in the first place. Ziemann said there has been historic avoidance of APA jurisdiction from some timber companies. Bowen noted Lyme could have insisted its proposal did not meet the 25-acre clear-cut threshold.
That’s because, as Ziemann explained to commissioners, the clear-cut proposal was not as, well, clear cut. Lyme Timber will implement two kinds of forest management practices— shelterwood removal with reserves and free thinning. Shelterwood removal, Ziemann said, involves growing young trees under the protection of older trees. Once the younger trees reach a certain size, the older trees are cut so the younger trees can fully develop. The company plans to do this on about 721 acres. Thinning trees from a stand does not require an APA permit, Ziemann said, but was reviewed as part of the overall proposal. Lyme Timber plans to thin about 102 acres.
Ziemann highlighted the Adirondack Council’s concerns for commissioners, but he said the commentary wasn’t specific to Lyme Timber’s proposal. Ziemann added that the state’s Climate Action Council encourages sustainable forest management.
“This project is in my backyard,” said APA Commissioner Dan Wilt, who is also the chair of the regulatory committee reviewing the project. “Lyme has been a very good partner with the town and working with us.”
APA Commissioner Benita Law-Diao asked Ziemann what the timber yield would be on the property and how long it would take for the harvesting.
Ziemann said Lyme Timber would plan to be finished harvesting before spring. He expected about 70% of the wood to be used as pulp and 30% for saw logs.
Another concern of the Adirondack Council, Bowen wrote, was that mature trees store the most carbon. Ziemann agreed with that, adding that younger forests sequester carbon more rapidly. He said having a mosaic of forest types provides balance while continuing the industry.
APA Chairman John Ernst seemed to address the council’s suggestion about the cumulative impact of timber harvesting in the Adirondacks.
“How intense is it, where is it, how much is being kept young, what is regrowing, just looking at the overall question,” Ernst said. “You don’t see it when you’re doing project by project.”
APA Counsel Chris Cooper said when commissioners and staff approve a timber permit, they are making a determination that there won’t be any undue adverse impacts, therefore the cumulative impact should be mitigated.
Jerry Delaney, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, suggested that a forester from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry or from Paul Smith’s College make a presentation on timber harvesting statewide.
Commissioners Art Lussi, Joseph Zalewski and Andrea Hogan were absent.
Invasive species and rail trail approvals
The APA board also approved on Thursday changes to its inter-agency guidelines with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on invasive species management on state lands in the Adirondacks.
Megan Phillips, deputy director of planning for the APA, said the changes provide more flexibility so emerging threats can be more quickly addressed. The revisions also allow DEC and agents to propose best management practices—methods to curtail the invasive species at hand—through a work plan and permit process.
The changes do not circumvent other permits that may be required when treating an area for invasive species. For example, an APA wetlands permit or a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit may still be needed.
The Lake George Association, which has sued the APA, Lake George Park Commission and DEC, over their authorizations of an herbicide to treat Eurasian watermilfoil, submitted a letter concerned with the changes. The association said the revisions seem to let either the DEC or the APA bypass statutory and regulatory permit and public reviews.
Other commenters, including multiple lake associations, supported the revisions, though APA Commissioner Zoe Smith worried they did not understand the proposal.
Smith said if APA commissioners accept the changes, “that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden every lake association is eligible to start using Procellacor (the herbicide) or any other treatments.”
Phillips said there were some commenters who may have misunderstood and that “other permit requirements are still in place and some of those could come before the agency board.”
Commissioners passed the changes.
Phillips also provided the board with an update on the Adirondack Rail Trail, the 34-mile multi-use trail underway by the DEC connecting Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. The project had been out for public comment and seeking APA approval for impacting about 0.5 acres of wetlands.
APA issued the DEC a wetlands permit in mid-August, but Phillips said the DEC still needs a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
Todd Eastman says
Does the APA have enough technical capacity to evaluate proposals such as this, anymore?
Jeanne weber says
I’m thinking the same thing Todd. removing large trees doesn’t help climate. We need these large adult trees to absorb the carbon.
Ryan Finnigan says
I wonder if they are controlling for beech or are they simply releasing a new crop of crowded and diseased beech trees per usual?
Ian Thompson says
When employing a shelterwood method like they are here, the removal of beech stems is likely part of the preparatory treatment for this harvest. The purpose of this step in the management sequence is to set the stage of the regeneration of the new stand and strengthen/improve the rigor of the trees that will remain in the stand and provide “shelter” for the regeneration that is selected for after the harvest occurs. Having a dense, shade tolerant “pest” tree like beech would not be good for advancing the regeneration of desired species as it would shade out regenerating seedlings. Of course, beech is very hard to eliminate entirely due to its propensity to root sucker, so it is inevitable that beech will remain on the stand in the future. A little beech is ok, but a lot is not. Management of beech is a continuous problem faced by forest managers ubiquitously in the natural communities of the northeast.