May 28, 2014LANCASTER — Members of the Nash Stream State Forest Citizens Advisory Committee set an ambitious schedule for the remainder of the year at a two-hour meeting on Saturday, May 17, under the chairmanship of retired wildlife biologist John Lanier of Columbia.
They, plus Division of Forests and Lands staff members — Bill Carpenter, Ken Desmarais, North Country forester Maggie Machinist, and forest technician Todd Caron, plus Clint Savage of the Trails Bureau — agreed to do their very best to gather needed additional data, closely review each chapter of the current forest management plan, and solicit and consider public input, particularly from Potentially Affected Interests — PAIs — by year's end. Under this schedule, an updated 10-year Forest Management Plan could be recommended and then adopted for the nearly 40,000-acre state-owned tract, only about half of which is now open to logging by late spring 2015.
Some 25 officers and active members of ATV and Off Highway Recreational Vehicle (OHRV) Clubs were present at the public meeting. The N.H. OHRV Association and the North Country "Ride the Wilds" Coalition have both agreed which designated routes in limited areas they would most like to have opened up for motorized use to enhance Coös County's 1,000-plus mile loop.
Harry Brown, president of the NHOHRV and North Country OHRV Coalition, testified that these riders would like see the "pilot" Kelsey to Route 26 to Bungy Road in Columbia route be permanently established, as well as opening up a route a mile south on the East Side Road, access to two dirt roads that are already open to motorized vehicles, plus permission to construct an east-west "Ride the Wilds" corridor trail from the West Side Road east towards Milan, to create a Groveton to Milan connection. ATV enthusiast would also to upgrade an existing snowmobile trail from Kelsey Notch South to Champion Road in Columbia.
"Our request might seem large," Brown said," but in reality it is very small in total scope when you consider the size of the entire forest, and we believe that it will have very little impact." Brown said that ATV riders do not stray from marked trails, especially since many from below the Notches have a healthy fear of bears and other wildlife.
The Coalition includes 17 OHRV clubs and four Chambers of Commerce in Coös County that are working together to give the region's economy a much-needed economic boost.
"We do not want — nor do we advocate — that another Jericho Mountain State Park be created within the Nash Stream State Forest," Brown stated. The Forest "makes up a complete ecosystem," he said. "We totally respect the purpose of this state Forest," he said "It is a gem that was preserved from development" because of the "incredible negotiating skills including creative financing," thanks to municipal, state and federal government and nonprofit organizations working together.
Desmarais said that, thanks to the work of a Division secretary, the original Forest Plan adopted in 1995 after seven years' work which was revised in 2002 was scanned and collated using a current software program in which chapters and paragraphs are numbered, ensuring that staffers trying to use it for guidance to literally "be on the same page."
The process now underway has members of the Nash Stream technical committee — Fish and Game biologists and fisheries specialists, Forests and Lands foresters, USFS forester, Division of Historic Resources staffer, Office of Energy and Planning, Natural Heritage, Department of Environmental Services, and so forth —meeting to review one or two chapters at a time, giving consideration to natural, cultural, economic and other changes that must be taken into account.
As updates and changes are drafted they will be sent out to members of the Advisory Committee and possibly to PAIs for comment and feedback.
Suggested changes to the two-and-a-half-page "Management Vision" statement were distributed and Committee members were asked to read it and e-mail comments to Desmarais.
Interim Division Director Brad Simpkins was on hand for key discussions.
Ninety-one privately owned camps are on the Forest on leased sites that now generate $86,000 annually for the Forest Management and Protection Fund.
Doing a thorough, professional job will take time. "There is no reason to believe that it can be done overnight," Lanier said. "We'll want to do it in a way that encourages the public to participate."
Nonetheless, there was no support for the idea of amending the current plan so that decisions on creating an east-west OHRV corridor trail could be made more quickly.
Wink Lees, representing The Nature Conservancy, pointed out that considering the Forest as a whole is very important and that the decision-making process should not be fragmented.
"We want to end up with a cohesive plan," Desmarais said.
"ATVs are going to be an issue that needs to be resolved to everybody's satisfaction, so we need to get the process rolling," Lanier concluded.
Three decisions were made near meeting's end: the next meeting will be in the DRED building at 6 p.m. on July 30 in Lancaster, with as much material as possible sent out electronically in advance; an amendment process should be incorporated into the updated management plan; and Rep. Rebecca Brown of Sugar Hill was elected as vice chair. As executive director of the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), she was appointed to the committee as someone knowledgeable about conservation easements.