Letter to the editor: Questions on Snake Mt. work

I was appalled to read the letter from J. Beamish (Addison Independent, Oct. 26) about the destruction on the east side of Snake Mountain due to what looks like unwise logging that has already occurred and is ongoing, so I decided to have a look this morning. Here is what my husband and I found.

Yes, the hiking trail is gone. Instead, there are huge, muddy ruts and waist-high water bars made from huge piles of mud and the remains of trees that have been cut. I do not recommend hiking there unless you want to come home muddy, wet and discouraged, as I did.

The logging has disrupted a wide area of formerly pristine forest. We saw huge new stumps and counted the rings on one tree we estimate was 200 years old. In order to get to the trees they were cutting, the loggers had to make large trails into the sometimes very steep slopes, resulting in sediment flowing down into small streams. We saw one clear-cut area we estimate was two to three acres on a very steep slope, leaving absolutely no trees to serve as a seed source for new trees. Instead, this area is now wide open and perfect for invasive plants such as buckthorn and non-native honeysuckle to take hold.

Brett Gilman, a student at Middlebury College and a co-founder of the Pollinator Pathway of Addison County, discovered this damage on a recent hike up Snake Mountain when he stumbled upon the scene described by J. Beamish. He shared photos he took there with me and a group of students in the Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG). The students and I are concerned about the loss of important wildlife habitat in this special, environmentally diverse eco-system. Brett has studied the rare wildflowers in the area directly adjacent to the logging site and told us he has never seen so many anywhere in New England. He has also visited other logging sites in Vermont and believes that this one on Snake Mountain appears far more destructive than normal. 

Our group, SNEG, is mounting an information effort to learn what is going on at the Snake Mountain site. Our questions are: Is the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department aware of the logging operation being carried out there? Has the area been studied to identify rare and important plants and animals that are being affected? Why is this logging being done now, during the wettest part of the year, and not in winter? Is the logging being done in the most sustainable manner possible in order to protect future trees? Is there a role for the Weybridge Conservation Commission, and the people of Weybridge, in whose town this operation is taking place? And who will speak for the natural environment to make sure no more habitat is destroyed?

I have been reaching out to various officials and individuals and have learned that the laws regulating logging in Vermont are very lax. Best practices are advisory, not legally binding. This is disheartening and needs to be changed.

The sign at the entrance to the trail says, “The mission of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is the conservation of all species of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont. To accomplish this mission, the integrity, diversity and vitality of their natural systems must be protected.” They also list a number to call for more information about this area: Fish and Wildlife Department Essex Junction District Office at 802-878-1564, or see vtfishandwildlife.com.

I plan to call today.

Our wild lands are precious. We can’t afford to lose any more of them.

Fran Putnam


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