Pisgah group wants plans to fight timber harvest


CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- The state is giving residents a chance to submit questions or comments about timber harvesting it has planned for Pisgah State Park and a local group hopes people apply enough pressure to get the project abandoned altogether.

The N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, a part of the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development, has published a notice that it expects to conduct a forest operation that includes timber harvesting on 140.1 acres of Pisgah land. It invites public input as part of the planning process and stressed that the notice is not a request for bids. Questions and comments must be received by Aug. 5.

But the group, Pisgah Defenders, is opposed to the state’s intentions for the land and its members hope complaints from concerned citizens will change New Hampshire’s plans. The state’s decisions regarding Pisgah caused Kathy Thatcher, who is a member of Pisgah Defenders, to resign as president of the Friends of Pisgah Council a year ago in an attempt to not jeopardize the organization’s future in dealing with the state. The Friends of Pisgah is a group of volunteers organized to assist the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation with the planning, operation and maintenance of the Granite State’s largest state park.

"What we’re hoping is if a lot of people speak out and speak up ... that the state will take notice and decide that they should not continue the management of the park the way they are planning to," Thatcher said.

The state’s decisions also resulted in the resignation of Laura Powell, the history and education chairwoman of the Friends of Pisgah, at the same time Thatcher stepped down. Both women told the Reformer they are not opposed to logging in general, but they feel is going about it the incorrect way.

"I want to protect the historic value (of Pisgah) and I’ve been hiking in the places they’re already logging and it’s is very close to some historic sites," Powell said.

The notice states the Division of Forests and Lands conducts timber harvests as part of a multiple-use program on state-owned woodlands. Powell said logging has taken place at Pisgah, but Kenneth Desmarais, an administrator in the department’s Division of Forests and Lands’ Forest Management Bureau, said the latest phase is only in the planning stages.

Desmarais told the Reformer the potential to harvest timber in Pisgah was included in the original proposal to the U.S. National Park Service for the money to fund the land in the 1960s. He said there was an additional document in the 1970s that further speaks about timber harvesting.

But Thatcher said this is not true. She insists Pisgah was meant for recreational purposes and the money was provided with that understanding.

"People love Pisgah because it is so undeveloped," she said. "It is not necessary for them to do commercial timber harvesting on this property. This isn’t about being against cutting trees down -- it’s about where they’re doing it."

Powell told the Reformer she is concerned about what the logging represents.

"They are using the land for profit and for commercial reasons and the land was purchased for recreation," she said.

Desmarais said the work the state intends to do will be beneficial for recreators at Pisgah, as many use it to hunt, bird-watch or fish. He said hunting conditions will improve through timber harvesting because it creates young plants and trees that attract new game.

"All kinds of wildlife eat or find things they need in young forests or harvested forests," he said.

Desmarais also mentioned the harvesting will produce clearings in the forest, thus creating better views, generate young vegetation that will draw all sorts of birds.

"This won’t harm Pisgah at all," he said, adding that timber harvesting is a form of forest management. "It’s full of benefits."

According to nhstateparks.org, Pisgah sports more than 13,300 acres of forested land that encompasses a complete watershed north of the Ashuelot River. The park sits on land in Chesterfield, Hinsdale and Winchester. It consists of 21 square miles.

Any questions or comments can be sent to the Division of Forests and Lands director at P.O. Box 1856, Concord, N.H. 03302-1856, ATTN: Forest Management Bureau P1-597.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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