Proposal to Harvest Timber Put on Hold
LUNENBURG -- Following a month of pushing back from residents, the Conservation Commission has put a proposal to harvest timber in the Robbs Hill Conservation Area on hold.
The commission pledged Wednesday not to approve any plans to cut in the winter, allowing more time for it to re-examine plans to manage the Robbs Hill forest, said Conservation Administrator Matthew Marro.
“The commission has been working on a methodical planning and implementation of forest management for the last two years and continues to be dedicated to that goal,” Marro said.
It could be at least a year before any cutting is approved, he added. To move forward, plans would need approval from the commission and various state agencies.
Robbs Hill is part of 375 acres of forest. It is the second conservation area in town that will undergo selective logging through a stewardship plan to manage growth in the forest.
Lynne Man, who lives on Burrage Street across the street from Robbs Hill, is among a group of residents who showed concern about what could happen to the land and other conservation area under the town forest plans.
Seeing the commission delay logging at the conservation area and open up to discussion makes Man hopeful.
“It’s not resolved yet and not what I was anticipating at all,” she said. “We have to figure out how we can all meet our goals.”
Over the past month, residents have spoken out about how the plans would affect the trails and wildlife by attending public forums hosted by the commission and a site walk through Robbs Hill.
In September, Gary Gouldrup of the New England Foresty Consultation presented a forest management plan to the commission.
The plan is through the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Forest Stewardship Program.
It proposed removing between a quarter and a third of the trees, which would help make room for younger ones and improve the diversity of the forest, Gouldrup told the commission at a Sept. 19 meeting. He called forest management a “controlled disturbance” that’s a long-term process.
The trees have been marked and the timber was ready to go out to bid, he said. Logging would take about a month and trails would be closed down.
Commissioner Carl Luck asked if there was a way to minimize impact from the forest management plan or a consideration of reducing the harvest.
More than 10 residents talked about how they use the trails and consider the conservation area is an important part of town during the meeting.
Forest management at Robbs Hill would be similar to what took place in the Small Town Forest, Gouldrup said. Those plans were completed at the beginning of the year.
“This is tree farming, this is timber harvesting,” he said. “Small Town Forest is your classic example and terms of the quality of work that was done there, it’s a good harvest and that’s what I hope would be done at the Robbs Hill parcel as well.”
In Small Town Forest, there are skid trails with twigs and limbs from cut trees left behind. Wood chips cover a clearing area that was used as a landing to process timber. The sky is more visible through patches in the tree canopy.
Some residents have said they don’t want to see the same happen at Robbs Hill or other town lands with proposed forest management plans.
“It left such a bad taste in our mouth,” said Paul Hunt, who used to mountain bike on the trails there.
The day before the Conservation Commission’s decision, the group addressed the Board of Selectmen and asked for help.
Man made a statement on behalf of the group of residents Tuesday asking for a moratorium on all forest management plans in town until there is a special taskforce to to consider alternatives, a clean up of the Small Town Forest, and examples of areas in town where forest management took place five to 10 years ago.
The commission plans to take some of the action relating to the conditions, which include hosting a set of walks at managed forest sites to see how trees have grown back, Marro said. Residents who attended its previous meetings will receive an invitation, he said.
There will also be a workshop meeting for the public that would be dedicated to proposed forest management plans.
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