December 26, 2012PEMI NORTHWEST— The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been collecting public comment on a proposal for timber harvests, road improvements, and ecosystem protection in our area. Although most of the proposed activities are in Benton, USFS proposes some timber harvests and other improvements in Easton, Landaff, and Woodstock.
The region, in the Pemigewasset Ranger District, is referred to as Pemi Northwest. USFS published a scoping report for the project in May 2011. Based on comments received on that report, USFS issued a report this October that totaled nearly 200 pages. That report included five alternative approaches to improvements in the area.
USFS staff person Kori Marchowsky discussed the project recently. She said that the statutory 30-day comment period ended last month. Nonetheless, individuals can still provide their thoughts on the proposed actions.
Marchowsky said that a team of specialists is examining comments received so far. A meeting is planned early next year for an internal discussion of the public input, she said.
The proposed work was under review prior to Tropical Storm Irene, Marchowsky said. Nonetheless, the storm "definitely influenced the breadth of alternatives we are now considering," she said. A significant proposal includes changes to Tunnel Brook Road in Benton, which is subject to a good deal of flooding. The road starts in Easton at Route 112.
In southern Easton, USFS suggests an improvement to protect the Wild Ammonoosuc River. The spot is a bit east of Route 116 near Route 112. Motorized vehicles have been using a sandbar in the area. This has negative effects on habitat and water quality, the report has found. "This project proposes to block vehicles from driving up to the river," the report states.
Marchowsky said that USFS tree harvests are based on the overall White Mountain National Forest Plan. The report notes that proposed changes were "identified by comparing the existing conditions on the ground with the desired conditions in the Forest Plan."
Regarding decisions to cut trees, USFS focuses on future potential for tree growth, the report states. "Harvesting trees," USFS writes, ". . . would improve the quality and vigor of remaining trees."
Proper management, the report continues can "create better growing conditions, resulting in improved forest health and higher quality wood products in the future." Overall, "timber harvest prescriptions are designed to promote healthy ecosystems over the long term," the report concludes. This includes more diverse wildlife habitat, the report suggests.
Towns would benefit from timber harvest revenue, USFS projects. The ten percent timber tax "would be prorated to the towns from which the timber is harvested," the report says.
Alternative Two in the report would generate the most tax revenue, a total of $79,400 based on projected harvests. Benton would receive most of that amount. USFS projections state that Easton would receive about $7,300 in timber tax, with Landaff and Woodstock only receiving about one percent of the total.
Under any of the four harvest options, cutting would be confined to the southern reaches of Easton and Landaff, south of the Wild Ammonoosuc. Woodstock cutting would be in a very limited part of the northwestern reaches of the town.
More information about the project can be found online. Links to the reports that are the basis of the project are at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php?project=34713