Letter to the editor: Snake Mountain trail is no more

Snake Mountain, with its glorious views of the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks beyond, its diverse ecosystems, beautiful trails, and soul-renewing peace and quiet, is a rare jewel. Our favorite approach for walking up the mountain has always been the hiking trail from the east side, which connects with the main trail from the west side a little over halfway to the top. 

My husband and I were horrified recently to find that this lovely eastern trail no longer exists. It has been obliterated by a massive new logging road and wide, deep, muddy tracks. The surrounding woods and meadows have been cut, slashed and bulldozed. The beaver ponds and bog have been drained. The operator of a behemoth earth-moving and tree-clearing machine on the mountain said that these activities would probably continue well into next year. This means that that there will be little left of the natural environment on the eastern side of Snake Mountain.

How could this happen to land owned by the people of Vermont in what is designated as the Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA)? How could those in charge not see the dark irony in allowing this wanton destruction in a public forest where proudly displayed signs along the trails on both sides of the mountain make these claims?

“Snake Mountain is Vermont’s most visited WMA. Please join us in appreciating all it has to offer, while respecting the land and ecosystems so they can remain healthy for future generations.”

“Snake Mountain’s rare natural communities and species make its conservation critical.”

“Snake Mountain includes some uncommon habitats that host rare ecology. Because of this rarity, it is essential to protect them with minimal disturbance so they can flourish.”

The agency in charge, Vermont’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, espouses “minimal disturbance” and the importance of conserving the biodiversity found on mountains, yet it has opened Snake Mountain to logging. Further, this activity started at the end of Vermont’s wettest summer in memory, which left the ground particularly vulnerable to damage that goes far into the ground, not just across it, from the giant machinery crisscrossing the mountainside. Some research indicated that timber-harvesting rights on this property, apparently established when the state acquired the land, had been granted to A. Johnson Lumber Company of Bristol. Perhaps the state had to convey those rights to get the property. But to judge by the current operation, this seems an unfortunate trade-off. What’s truly inexcusable is that the state is failing to regulate the logging so as to limit the environmental damage it is causing, in accordance with the high-flown language on their signs.

J. Beamish


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