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Forest Service accepting public comment on proposal to cut trees in White Mountain National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comments on a proposal to cut down trees on about 650 acres of land in White Mountain National Forest near Sandwich. This is a view of the Sandwich Range from Wonalancet.
Courtesy
/
Zack Porter
The U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comments on a proposal to cut down trees on about 650 acres of land in White Mountain National Forest near Sandwich. This is a view of the Sandwich Range from Wonalancet.

The U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comments on a proposal to cut down trees on about 650 acres of land in White Mountain National Forest near Sandwich. They would remove whole trees on about 145 acres of that land.

The Forest Service says that will help them convert the land into a type of forest that works better for the ecology of the land, increase less common kinds of habitats, increase tree diversity and create openings for wildlife. They’re also planning to generate revenue by selling wood.

Advocacy groups and some community members have opposed the plan, saying it could have negative impacts on the environment, contribute to climate change and cause issues for hikers and others who use the forest.

The Forest Service says its proposal to cut down trees in this part of the forest is consistent with a plan from 2005 that lays out how White Mountain National Forest should be managed.

But Maura King, president of the Wonalancet Preservation Association, which has long advocated for conservation, said it’s time for an update to the forest management plan.

“In light of how the world has changed since 2005, especially around climate issues, we feel, number one, that climate has to be taken into consideration,” she said.

Trees help sequester carbon, ensuring it does not enter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

King noted President Joe Biden’s 2022 executive order, which directs federal officials to protect mature forests in a variety of ways. That order is not referenced in the Forest Service’s draft environmental assessment. The Forest Service says 76% of the land under consideration is mature forest.

Colleen Mainville, a spokesperson for the White Mountain National Forest, said to the best of the agency’s knowledge, their plan does not run counter to Biden’s executive order.

In a draft environmental assessment from this summer, officials say there will be no significant impact on the environment.

Forest Service officials say the project would generate 6 million board feet of forest products, and money from selling those products would be used to improve transportation and recreation infrastructure in the area.

The advocacy group Standing Trees pushed back on the environmental assessment in written comments, saying the Forest Service has “wholly ignored the significant adverse environmental impacts of logging,” and says the proposed project would threaten forest health, wildlife habitat, and climate resilience.

Zack Porter, the executive director of Standing Trees, said the proposal near Sandwich is just one of multiple in New Hampshire they’re opposing.

“They want us to believe that each one of these projects is just a drop in the bucket. But together, there is a flood of destruction going on in the White Mountain National Forest,” he said. “It's time for that to stop and to pause and really think about where we are in the grand? scheme of things and how we want to do things differently going forward.”

The Forest Service is accepting comments from the public on the project until Oct. 23.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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