Home Commentary Letters to the Editor, Jan. 24, 2024

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 24, 2024

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Let Putnam Be An Old Growth Forest

To the Editor:

Dan Hemenway and John Dillon both contributed in the Jan. 10–23 edition of The Bridge regarding the great importance of Vermont’s forests. 

John Dillon’s article regarding the Worcester Range Unit Management Plan addressed key points regarding our beloved Putnam State Forest. This intact forest reserve is a treasure in its unfragmented forest ecology. Forest flora and fauna are best served by mature forests: Science tells us that mature forests are key to mitigating the climate crisis and the decline of animal populations and biodiversity. Nature knows what it is doing.

But the forest has been disturbed historically. Having a management plan is essential and welcome to make sure that all natural processes are happening: The monitoring of invasive species and natural regeneration are essential, but biomass extraction in the forest is counterproductive and short sighted.

Dan Hemenway’s commentary left me feeling uneasy on several fronts: State administration of Vermont’s forests falls short of what our present circumstances demand. Studies on remaining trees after forests are harvested have been conducted, but the hard science points to mature forests and climax forests as being the best sanctuary for the planet’s remaining life and the better mitigation for carbon sequestration.

Mr. Hemenway’s strategy of relying on ridgeline development to deal with the “exponential” increase in people migrating to the state is a difficult prospect to imagine. Ridgelines tie together the habitats of nature. This disruption and fragmentation of ecological systems is detrimental to the wild nature of Vermont. I see no mention of the other animals that make these wildlands their home. Nature knows what it is doing, and it is a very great thing to study and be close to. These modern times demand it.

Frank White, Worcester

Dan Hemenway replies:

I agree with most of Frank White’s response to my commentary on Vermont’s forests. I especially concur with his observation that biomass is best left in the forest. My comments recognized that many of ‘our’ forests are owned privately and that wood is a commercial product. Leaving even entire logs on the forest floor enhances growth and adds biomass that, among other benefits, retards water, somewhat reducing runoff. I proposed measures that would minimize damage and compensate for removed minerals and biomass. My recommendations assumed people will continue to use fragile electric heat and build houses with wood. Practical and ideal differ. I intended to recommend practical measures given that wood will be harvested for economic and practical reasons.

Remineralization, based on simple evaluation using soil from the site to be amended, will greatly stimulate ‘worn out’ soil and compensate somewhat for biomass removal. 

Some years ago when acid rain was a public concern, I had the opportunity to examine a forest that had been uniformly thinned and harvested. Where the grade was convenient, much biomass was removed, and acid rain had severely damaged the remaining trees. On a steep slope, it was more convenient to leave thinned wood and, in spite of thinner soil, there were no obvious acid rain symptoms. 

I, perhaps foolishly, thought no one would think I was recommending interfering with old growth forests. I’m sorry I did not make that clear.

Mr. White’s mention of an unfragmented old growth forest jarred me into realizing that I had entirely forgotten to address that subject. The purpose of the article was to recommend best forest management regulations in the face of pressure for land and wood. I definitely should have mentioned avoiding fragmentation of our forests where it has not already been done. Land ownership patterns and arbitrary town and county boundaries require that this be managed at the state level. 

Perhaps any comments on forest ridges were unclear. Again I agree with Mr. White’s assessment. The text of a longer reply is available on The Bridge’s website. 

Strengthening Community Through Open Dialogue

To the Editor:

I am writing to highlight the importance of the public listening sessions and community meetings organized by District 2 City Councilors Alfano and Kohn. The public listening sessions have been invaluable in creating an open and inclusive dialogue between the community and its elected officials. Through these sessions, residents can express concerns, share perspectives, and suggest ideas that contribute to our city’s improvement. 

Through active engagement with our community members, the District 2 City Councilors strengthen bonds between residents and their local governments. Insights gained from these sessions have helped city councilors learn constituents’ concerns and feedback on policies and initiatives that directly affect them.

The listening sessions started in January 2023 with one participant. Since then, over 70 people have participated. I want to express my gratitude to the residents of District 2 who have actively participated in these sessions, offering thoughtful suggestions and constructive feedback in shaping Montpelier’s future. 

Whether you’ve attended a session or not, Councilor Alfano and I (Councilor Kohn) encourage you to take advantage of these civic engagement opportunities. Your voice matters, and these sessions are designed to ensure that it is heard. Together, we can build a community that thrives on the principles of democracy and citizen participation. 

Listening sessions are crucial to fostering a stronger, more vibrant community that thrives on collaboration and mutual understanding. It’s great that all districts now hold community meetings. District 2 listening sessions are scheduled as follows: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Main Street, Montpelier (Hayes Room, 10 to 11 a.m.) on the following Saturdays: Jan. 27, Feb. 24, March 30, April 27, May 25, and June 29.

Pelin Kohn, Ph.D., District 2 City Councilor

Letters to the editor represent the opinions of the authors and do not reflect the opinions of The Bridge. Submit your letter by email to editor@montpelierbridge.com. Preference is given to submissions by those who live in central Vermont, should not exceed 300 words in length, and may be edited for brevity and accuracy.