Monday, February 11, 2013

Criticism Of The APA’s Clearcutting General Permit


The new draft General Permit for clearcutting being readied for approval this week by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is a flawed document for a number of reasons. It’s simply bad public policy, bad legal work done in the rush to get it approved, bad public process as it willfully ignores overwhelming public sentiment, and bad science as it seeks to dramatically expand the amount of clearcutting in heavily cut forests.

All of this, of course, will lead to a bad outcome for the APA and for the Adirondack Park.

But, there’s a better way. The APA could slow down this train. It should postpone action on the draft General Permit or deny it outright and then begin a better process towards a better outcome. The APA should fully investigate the legitimate issues facing large-scale forest managers across the Adirondacks. It’s important for the Adirondack Park to keep our working forests working well.

2013 Conservation Easements MapIt’s important to note that this is not just an APA matter. The Department of Environmental Conservation is fully on-board with expanding clearcutting of Adirondack private and conservation easement forests.

The APA’s new General Permit would create a process for “pre-qualification” whereby landowners who want to clearcut would submit a variety of standardized information. If they are FSC or SFI (see more below) certified for sustainable forestry they would need to supply less information than if they are certified under a different program. The process seeks to get landowners approval in 60 days.

The better process would be to convene a group of stakeholders from industrial forestland owners, small private landowners, local government, environmental groups, and state agencies and work to reform is woefully outdated (now more than 30 years old) rules and regulations for forest management (APA rules reference standards from 1975). A better outcome is revised rules and regulations. A General Permit is simply a poor tool for large-scale land use decision with long-term impacts, such as forest clear-cutting.

Lets look at the various issues and see why the APA’s General Permit to ease the process for undertaking clearcutting is a bad idea, starting with the view of the large industrial landowners.

The large industrial landowners across the Adirondacks want to be able to make bigger clearcuts with minimal regulatory review. These landowners include Lyme Timber Company, owner of over 250,000 acres in the Adirondack Park, Rayonier, owner of some 120,000 acres, the Forestland/Heartwood Forestlands, LandVest, among others. These landowners largely own the bulk of forest management rights on the 780,000 acres of state-held conservation easements as well as a considerable acreage of non-easement lands.

The lands these companies own have been managed for 150 years. The foresters from these companies decry the condition of the forests that they bought. They openly refer to them as “junk forests” and state that they would like to simply “start over” in many cases by clearcutting large swaths.

The company foresters state that current APA law and regulations that require any clearcutting project of 25 acres or more to secure an APA permit is too onerous. The last company to seek an APA permit was Rayonier a few years ago, which received approval for a half dozen large clearcuts totaling over 500 acres. The permit took 14 months. Neither the APA or Rayonier has a satisfactory answer as to why the permit took so long.

These companies have been successful at skirting APA clearcutting review for the most part. Spend some time looking at these managed timberlands on Google Earth or Bing and it’s plain to see that the large industrial forestlands in the Adirondack Park have been heavily strip cut, clearcut in small non-jurisdictional 24-acre sections, and clearcut in 8-20 acre checkerboard patches. The company foresters say that these methods are not adequate to meet their objectives because current rules force them to literally leave too many trees in the field as buffers in between clearcuts (24-acre clearcuts, checkerboard clearcuts) or as residual stands so that they do not trigger the clearcutting definition (strip clearcuts).

You’ve got to like the honesty of comments that current regulations require too many trees be left in the forest and that what large industrial forestland managers really want to do is to “start over” in many cases.

These forest managers are under a great deal of pressure. They all have to make relatively short-term returns on investment to the different funds that capitalized the purchase of these forestlands. In the Adirondack Park, as well as lands across the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Southeast, has seen a historic transition in the past 25 years in ownership of the working forest. 25 years ago these lands were all owned by paper companies and managed to supply these mills and produce some high-value saw logs. Companies like Diamond Matchstick, Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Company, Champion International, International Paper, Georgia Pacific, and Finch, Pruyn & Company were the large landowners across the Adirondacks. Diamond Matchstick was the first to sell its lands and mills, but all others followed, though a few sold their land and kept their mills. Finch, Pruyn was the last to go.

Easement-Lands-Rayonier-Burnt-Bridge-Pond-with-LabelsFrom Maine to Ohio to North Carolina the story is the same. Many thousands of acres of these forests were protected for conservation purposes during this upheaval. But out of this industry-wide transition came the Timberland Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs), such as The Forestland Group, Lyme Timber Company, and GMO Renewable Resources, among many others, and the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), such as Rayonier and Plum Creek Timber Company, among many others.

The heart and soul of these operations is that they are structured for a 10- or 15-year investment period, with some variation across the industry. Their management program capitalizes an investment to buy timberlands. They then sell timber, and if they can they also lease recreational rights. Some of the REITs also develop around high value lakeshores. At the end of the investment period they sell the lands and move on to the next investment. An investor receives an annual return on his/her investment and, hopefully, the return of their original investment with a profit at the end of the investment period. Of course, federal tax laws, which provide great incentives and rewards for these types of investments, are a driving force.

TIMOs and REITs like conservation easements. Why? Because sale of the easement allows them to recoup a large percentage of their invested capital that they were not planning to use: the value of the lands apportioned to development rights and/or recreation rights. This is why TIMOs have been involved in the major easement deals. They really just want the trees.

If the land already has an easement, then the investment is much less as they’re just paying for the value of the timber stock on the lands. The carrying costs, as far as local property taxes, are based largely on the timber value, which is much less than also carrying the value for development rights. The more expensive values of the land, namely the development rights and often the roads, are usually held by the state (though the DEC seems to duke it out with the fee owners about the costs of road maintenance).

The dominant ownership of TIMOs and REITs of the great working forests of the Adirondack Park has led us to where we are today. The influence of the TIMOs and REITs over the APA has led them to try and streamline clearcutting rules that will usher in the most significant changes to the Adirondack landscape in more than 100 years.

The on-the-ground reality of our working forests, as far as conditions on conservation easement lands, is that they are heavily strip cut, checkerboard clearcut, and clearcut is small 24-acre patches. It appears, as per their basic purpose, that the TIMOs and REITs have done everything they can under the present law to maximize extraction of trees, which is how they make money and provide a return on investment.

(An important question, and one not answered here, is: Is timber harvesting more intensive on conservation easement lands than on lands owned by TIMOs/REITs without easements?)

Easement-Lands-Rayonier-CarryFallsReservoir-with-labelsThe TIMOs and REITs say they’ve been dealt a bad hand and that they’re doing the best they can. They decry the condition of the working forests, arguing that after 150 years of management on the 10- and 15-year intensive-cut pulp cycle (a high value northern hard wood tree takes 30 or 40 years to grow), these lands are beat. They say that in many areas on their lands they bought the forests that were basically beech monocultures, due to heavy cutting and high deer browse, among other factors. Compounding these problems, they say, they must contend with beech bark disease, invasive pests, and impacts from climate change.

The answer they say is more heavy cutting to facilitate better forest regeneration to grow a future healthy forest. But, they say that the strip clearcutting, checkerboard patch clearcutting, and small clearcuts are not adequate tools. They say what they really need is to be able to make larger clearcuts of 100 acres or more.

It seems to me that the large industrial landowners have dug themselves into a hole, or rather cut their way into a hole. Almost universally, they are not practicing selective harvests and uneven aged forest management. Under such forest management regimes, a forest would be managed to grow high value trees of 40 or 50 or even 60 years of age. Such trees are very high value saw logs. To grow such trees, a landowner invests in timber stand improvement (TSI) cuts to remove low value trees, damaged trees, trees that are not growing straight, etc. The golden rule of TSI is to “take the worst first.” TSI is performed every 10 or 15 years through a stand.

One important part of TSI is that potential future high value trees are left to grow, to get bigger and add value. So, even as low value or damaged trees are removed, the forest will contain a range of tree sizes as seedlings, saplings, 10-, 20-, 30-year old trees, and even older trees, all grow together in an uneven aged forest. Trees harvested are individually marked (“selective harvesting”) by a forester and done so with an assessment as to the future forest health and timber value. Loggers cut down only the marked trees.

What’s being practiced on the industrial forest landscape today in the Adirondack Park is largely even-aged management. This is where a great swath of the forest is cut in one cutting in a strip clearcut or checkerboard clearcut or small 24-acre clearcut. Remaining trees in the standing strips or uncut checkerboard blocks or surrounding a 24-acre clearcut will be harvested by similar means once the cleared areas revegetate in 10 or 15 years. It’s a 2-step process where basically all trees are removed and far far from uneven-aged management.

The TIMOs and REITs say that after the various clearcuts are done, they will practice uneven aged management. But, since easements are sold from TIMO to TIMO or REIT to REIT or REIT to TIMO or TIMO to REIT it’s hard to see how this cycle is ever broken.

For the Adirondack Park working forests owned by these large industrial landowners it seems that we’re in a race to the bottom.

This is too bad. TIMOs/REITs were instrumental in helping to build the conservation easement program in the Adirondacks and across the Northern Forest. Their role in helping to protect the Park’s open space landscape cannot be denied.  The question is whether they are a historical bridge from the 150-year pulp cycle to long-term uneven-aged northern hardwood forest management or a management phase that sets forest development back decades as they leave the forest in a worse condition than they bought it, but were successful in returning making a good return for their investors.

The Adirondack environmental community helped to create the state’s conservation easement program. A tremendous amount of work was done in the 1980s and 1990s in the state Legislature, state agencies, Governors, and with public education, to start the easement program and then to adequately capitalize it. The Adirondack environmental organizations led this work and the 780,000 acres of conservation easement lands in the Adirondack Park is one of the great conservation accomplishments of the past 25 years.

It’s a bitter pill indeed for those of us that worked so hard to build this program that forest management on easement lands is marked by strip clearcuts, checkerboard patch clearcuts, and 24-acre clearcuts and now the conservation easement managers are advocating for the opportunity to undertake large-scale clearcutting as a regular practice.

Easement-Lands-ConservationFund-2withglabelsIt seems we’re further from sound, long-term uneven-aged, selective tree management than ever before. The tragedy is that an uneven-aged, selective tree managed forest yields high values where one person cutting selected trees in the forest can supply dozens of others with wood to make secondary wood products. That’s the nucleus of a sustainable economy in the Adirondack Park.

At best, clearcutting delays this type of sound management, delays a sustainable economy. At worst, it forecloses the opportunity to even create an uneven-aged, high value forest and a robust forest products economy. The APA, unfortunately, is aiding and abetting this race to the bottom.

The TIMOs and REITs want to clearcut larger areas for all the reasons stated above. They want to cut great swaths of 100 acres or more. Out of these clearcuts, they say, a better forest they will grow. It will be a grand uneven-aged forest dominated by healthy, high-value, northern hardwood saw timber trees. So they say.

It’s hard to see this happening based on the condition of the industrial forests today.

The APA plans to act on approval of a new General Permit for clearcutting of commercial forestlands at its February 14-15th meeting. And, yes, this General Permit is a valentine to the TIMOs and REITs and large industrial landowners in the Adirondacks.

Landowners that qualify for the General Permit will be granted authority to clearcut lands in blocks of 100 acres or bigger in 60 days. The TIMOs and REITs say they will move ahead with clearcutting of their forestlands whether through the General Permit or through an APA review process.

Clearcutting is their next strategic move, seemingly to meet the requirements of their investments.

The General Permit is deeply flawed. It’s flawed because it’s the wrong tool for regulation of forest management. But it’s also flawed because the APA has not invested the time or energy to research or study this issue. The APA is simply reflexively trying to honor the request of influential large forestland owners without looking at the long-term consequences.

Lets take a look at the major problems with the APA’s draft General Permit for clearcutting.

APA predicates its new General Permit for clearcutting on FSC and SFI certification programs

One thing the APA and the industrial forestland owners point to is that everything they’re doing is vouchsafed by the international sustainable forestry certification programs of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Virtually all of the industrial forestlands owned by the TIMOs and REITs is FSC and SFI certified. This is largely a cost of doing business for these companies because the European export market is the dominant high value market for the Northeast USA and the European market only accepts FSC certified trees.

The APA says, basically, if the clearcutting practices of the TIMOs and REITs are good enough for FSC and SFI, they’re good enough for them too. Through its new General Permit, the APA is basically delegating its permit authority to FSC and SFI. This is an action of questionable legality. An FSC/SFI management plan is a poor substitute for the findings of facts, conditions, and 39 development considerations that are integral parts of any APA permit.

FSC originated as the environmentalist’s sustainable forestry program. SFI was the American forest products industry corporate response. The two programs duked it out through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Market realities drove SFI to move towards FSC and financial realities drove FSC towards SFI.

Outlets like Lowes and Home Depot, among others, made big public commitments to sell FSC products. The got great media and plaudits for bold green actions. SFI did not want to be left behind so it largely matched up its criteria to mostly meet FSC standards.

For its part FSC saw that the major funding it enjoyed from foundations to launch and initially sustain the effort was drying up as the environmental foundation world turned away from sustainable forestry towards global climate change. FSC had to figure out a way to attract more acreage into its certification program to sustain it as landowners pay an annual fee to be certified and large up-front costs. FSC needed to go where the acres were and that was not with small green groovy landowners, but with the TIMOs and REITs who own millions of acres. To gain participation from the big boys and girls, FSC matched down its criteria to SFI. Now almost all major landowners in the Adirondacks and elsewhere are jointly certified.

LassitterEasement-1withlabelsOne irony of the FSC/SFI mixing and matching is that SFI caps, with exceptions, clearcutting at 120 acres. FSC has no cap, but leaves clearcutting decisions to the long-term prescriptions in the management plan for the property. FSC will allow large-scale clearcutting if it’s undertaken with the objective of restoring a native, uneven-aged forest.

The problem is that it takes a long time to grow a native uneven-aged forest. Yet, the clearcutting is done on the front-end. Long-term forest management is what allows a forest to recover. Long-term is not something that the TIMOs and REITs are all about. As discussed earlier, the TIMOs and REITs are short-timers, but they want to use the tools, such as clearcutting, for long-term management.

FSC and SFI are also voluntary. These certification programs are not binding on the lands (though some easement lands have binding language clearly making maintenance of certification a clear preference) and could be dropped by subsequent landowners long after the clearcuts have been completed.

Management of recovering forests or poorly managed, even-aged forests, such as the large swath of forests covered by conservation easements in the Adirondacks, has proven to be a challenge for FSC. They’re great for ensuring sustainable forestry over a well-managed uneven-aged forest. FSC has drawn sharp criticism for certifying plantation forests and monocultures. FSC’s permissiveness in approving clearcutting has drawn heated skepticism from many who were initial supporters. Some states have acted to further regulate FSC certified lands due to its flexibility in allowing clearcutting.

For its part the APA has not produced any policy research or analysis on the strengths or weaknesses of these certification programs other than a limited handout.

The best option for a recovering forest is often just leaving it alone and letting nature heal it over time. But this doesn’t comport with the return-on-investment pressures of a TIMO or REIT.

It is a weak argument for the APA to make that FSC and SFI certification programs are adequate substitutes for an APA project review for a clearcutting project, but as we’ll see with other sections of this article, this is the APA’s single best argument. APA’s legal work and process is simply deficient – laughingly so.

The APA issued a negative declaration under SEQRA for the General Permit. This is an action under SEQRA (the State Environmental Quality Review Act) where applicants or government bodies define publicly the potential impacts of its action. In issuing a “Neg Dec” a project sponsor makes a declaration that its project will have no negative impacts. A “Pos Dec,” or positive declaration, signifies the possibility of a negative impact caused by the project and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that details the potential impacts and planned mitigation would follow.

In issuing the Neg Dec here, the APA stated definitively that it does not expect any negative impacts from large-scale clearcutting and no EIS is necessary. Really?

This Neg Dec contains many significant errors. Lets look at them.

In the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), which is part of the Neg Dec, the APA answered “No” or “NA” (Not Applicable) to a variety of questions. It’s informative to review this EAF because some of the APA’s answers are truly stunning and reveal a willful determination to put on blinders to potential impacts in order to rush this General Permit to approval. The whole Neg Dec and EAF are posted.

In the EAF, the APA answered “>25 acres” to a question about “total acreage of project area.” In reality, this General Permit will likely affect more than 1 million acres. That the APA issued a Neg Dec for an action that could affect over 1 million acres has to be some kind of record for the largest Neg Dec in state history.

On the question to whether the proposed action is “contiguous” to “sites” “listed on the national register of historic places” the APA answered “NA.” This is puzzling because the National Register of Historic Places lists the Adirondack Forest Preserve. This was done in 1966. (Hey, it’s easy to find on Wikipedia.) The Forest Preserve shares hundreds of miles of boundaries with lands likely to be clearcut under this General Permit. In fact, pictures of strip cuts, checkerboard patch cuts, and small clearcuts posted on PROTECT’s website show many of these cuts to forests that border Forest Preserve.

There were some other beauties too.

To EAF question as to whether “hunting or fishing…opportunities presently exist in the project area” the APA answered “NA.”  Many conservation easement lands allow public hunting and fishing rights. Many lease hunting and fishing rights. Clearcutting has been found to be detrimental to certain wildlife. But the APA says NA.

The EAF answered NA to the question as to whether these lands are used for “open space recreation” yet a number of easements include various public recreation rights, including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, mountainbiking, etc.

On the questions of how many acres of “vegetation (trees, shrubs, ground cover) will be removed from the site”  APA answered “>25 acres.”

Whether “lakes, ponds or wetlands” are contiguous to the project? NA. Whether the project area is known to include important scenic views? NA. Whether the project area has unique geologic formations? NA. Is the project area contiguous to critical environmental areas? NA. Is the project site located over an aquifer? NA. The list goes on.

The APA’s failure to identify even a single adverse environmental impact from the proposed clearcutting General Permit, or to acknowledge that there was public controversy related to the action, signals that the APA failed to take the required “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the General Permit and that it failed to provide a coherent rationale for a negative declaration.

The APA should rescind the negative declaration that it issued for the proposed General Permit for clearcutting, and it should conduct a new environmental assessment of this action. A positive declaration is more appropriate. Once a positive declaration is issued, the APA should then prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because the proposed General Permit has the potential to have at least one significant adverse environmental impact, if not many.

See a full legal response from Protect the Adirondacks written by the attorneys from Caffry and Flower in Glens Falls.

APA is making policy by anecdote as recommendations made primarily by industrial forestland owners and managers from TIMOs and REITs were taken as gospel and completely unscrutinized. The APA never justified the need for expediting clearcutting projects. The APA never provided any independent analysis of the role of clearcutting in Adirondack forest management. At a meeting of stakeholders in January, the APA stated that the General Permit “might not help, but it won’t hurt.”

Forest clearcutting has been a major public controversy for decades. There has been a great deal of research about long-term harm cause by clearcutting. Accomplished  scientists such as E.O. Wilson have written about the hazards of clearcutting and ecologic changes from clearcutting have been well documented by ecologists such as Gene Likens for decades. The APA insists on moving forward on this issue in an information vacuum.

Good science and good data make good public policy. Policy by anecdote makes for poor public policy.

The APA held a public comment period in November-December 2012. Over 200 comments were submitted where 90% opposed this action. Comments came not just from environmental groups, but from scientists, foresters, landowners, Park residents, and people from across the state and country. The APA is apparently unimpressed as they’re moving ahead with a slightly tweaked, but still deeply flawed General Permit.

The APA should put the brakes to this General Permit. A better process, which will produce a better outcome is to focus on the APA’s rules and regulations that govern forest management in the Adirondack Park. These rules are outdated. The APA has in its past successfully managed a public process to review and revise its rules and regulations. It should do so again for its outdated forest management regulations. The problems facing forest managers could be solved through an open and transparent fact-finding process that works to revise the APA’s rules and regs.

This is the path the APA should take.


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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

32 Responses

  1. joe nexr says:

    At this point i think these lands would have been better preserved if they were seasonally occupied second homes. The forest canopy would still be there. Now we have heavily roaded areas and forests that are regularly destroyed. On this issue, the enviros missed the boat. Second homes would have been better. We did preserve the notion of open space, but at great environmental cost. A few buildings here and there owned by people who leave the rest of the land and forest alone should be viewed as a reasonable option in the future.

  2. joe nexr says:

    These lands would have been better off with scattered seasonally occupied second homes. The forest canopy would remain and most of the land left undisturbed. The anti second home phobia got us open space but at the cost of heavily roaded areas and forests scheduled for complete removal regularly, forever. The enviros missed the boat on this issue. Next time around I hope the see second homeowners as better preservationists. With 44 acres per home, had a better option.

  3. Charlie says:

    It’s too bad what lust for money does to the brain.What most of us dont talk about,or see,is the little living things that make up the ecosystems where these clearcuts take place.Salamanders,frogs… and who knows what is being extinguished in these once quiet woods. A few years back there was a push for putting politicians on board the staff at APA,which would more or less be putting a corporate sponsor on board,a profiteer. A puppeteer.It seems to me the APA board has been breached by special interests. It used to be that the DEC had wonderful leaders/employees who went way out of their way to keep NY State’s forests and waters environmentally sound.Nowadays you can tell by their actions that special interests are tugging at their purse strings.I wish more people would snap out of their slumber’s.

  4. Paul says:

    I agree with Joe. Smaller owner occupied parcels would have been better for the woods. You see it on many private smaller parcels. But conservation easements like this allow for the land to be dumped by these TIMOs ans REITs. That way the only reasonable or practIcal buyer is NYS with help from a group like TNC.

  5. Dan says:

    The Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, which Peter worked for for many years, lobbied to get the NYS Legislature to look at property tax relief for small landowners in Resource Management and Low Intensity areas. Many of these people have financial difficulty holding on to the estates they own, which can lead to eventual sale to larger landowner, subdivision and/or development of those lands. Appointed negotiating local government leaders were on board with some of the ideas of the RCPA, Gov. Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, etc., but local governments pulled the rug out from under talks at the last hour just as an agreement was imminent.

    Regardless of ownership, Adirondack forests can, and should, continue to produce forest products for our economy. And they must not be allowed to so devastate the backcountry as Peter has so well exposed here.

  6. Big Burly says:

    The impacts on the Towns within APA jurisdiction has not been researched. My prediction is the financial consequences of a many year interruption of financial payments payable under 480-A rules will be considerable. The impacts on water quality in streams, ponds, and lakes will be long lasting due to increasing silt accumulations.
    A rethink is needed.

  7. Justin says:

    Adirondack environmental organizations should capitalize on the APAs willingness to rely on third parties and create their own certification program. It could be tailored to the Adirondacks and be structured to prevent capture by industry as it seems has happened to FSC.

    There needs to be general oversight by the APA and DEC, but knowledge, threats and practices change much faster than state bureaucracies can react. An independent certification program doing the fine-grained review would be much more nimble.

  8. Paul says:

    Much of the “protected” river corridor land (as described at the Protect website) that is now owned by the state that you can see looking at some of these same areas was just as heavily (or more heavily) logged prior to those sales. I think we should keep in mind that what looks like this now will look very different 20 or 30 years (even 10) from now. This “back country” is industrial timberland it is not Forest Preserve land. One of the things that Protect may accomplish here is to deter companies (or anyone) from entering into a conservation easement if it is going to be a big PR nightmare for them later.

  9. Paul says:

    Some of the most cherished Forest Preserve land we now own as a state was far more heavily clearcut than most of the land displayed in the pictures. It grows back, not at the speed we would all prefer but it does grow back. There isn’t anyone that wants trees to grow back faster than a forester overseeing industrial timberland.

  10. PROTECT and a dozen other groups urge Governor Cuomo and APA to delay or deny General Permit to relax rules for clearcutting | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] Read a full PROTECT account of the problems with this general permit at the Adirondack Almanack. […]

  11. Charlie says:

    Paul… I did not say the APA is getting kickbacks,but who knows?It seems to me they are moving towards appeasing big business more than they are protecting the Adirondacks.Maybe i’m wrong.I’m just so damn sensitive to the fact that we have destroyed,and continue to destroy, so much just so a few people can have more money before they die.

    • joe nexr says:

      Charlie, this is industrial forestland, not state owned forever wild land. These people have every interest in growing better forests faster. Industrial forests are not pretty.

      Suggesting the APA Commissioners, many of who have served for eons, are somehow corrupt is just, um, out-of-line, to say the least. If you really care about this place do a little reaseach and get to know who this people are before hurling insults at them.

  12. PROTECT cheers APA for tabling controversial General Permit to loosen clearcutting rules | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] The APA’s action follows a group letter from a dozen environmental groups opposing this action. It also follows a detailed legal analysis by PROTECT that documented serious flaws in the APA’s legal work and process in support of this General Permit. PROTECT also released aerial photographs that showed extensive heavy cutting on lands eyed for large clearcuts and posted a comprehensive article on this flawed proposal on the Adirondack Almanack. […]

  13. Paul says:

    From the Protect website:

    “The new General Permit will streamline rules to allow clearcutting of any size on over more than 1 million acres in the Adirondacks, including over 750,000 acres where the state owns conservation easements.”

    “any size”?? According to the APA presentation today this is totally bogus?

    Who are we supposed to believe?

  14. Paul says:

    Some of these groups are doing some good things. But making bogus statements like this ruins their credibility.

  15. joe nexr says:

    Some of these groups use distortions like this to raise money. The tactics are similar to the tea party, or gun fans suggesting weapons are soon to be confiscated. It is extremist stuff, which is too bad. They would be better at serving the role of keeping things balanced if they were, well, balanced. But alarmist stuff keeps donations flowing and pays their staff salaries.

    The photos on Protects’ website actually appear to be to be reasonable for industrial forest management, especially where such low quality forests are concerned.

  16. joe nexr says:

    Sorry John, but you misunderstand the experts. The region’s forest suffer from long term high grading, especially the industrial forest. They are not clearing fine old forest these days. They are clearing trash forest, the high value timber was taken long ago. At this point, the best way to deal with it is clearing and starting over.

    The high grading the experts refer to happened long ago. As a publisher it is important for you to get this point correctly.

    As I said in a prior post, if people want these forests to be left more intact, they should be more supportive of 44 acre second home development where the owners care about green foliage, not the type of forest….anf forest will do. But enviros decided long ago that industrial forest was preferable to second homes – so they should get with the program of industrial forests, ugly as they may be. Some enviros want it both ways, no homes, no harvests and if that is the case, they just have to buy it all, like TNC does. Most of what TNC buys is cut over industrial land.

  17. Paul says:

    “The golden rule of TSI is to “take the worst first.” TSI is performed every 10 or 15 years through a stand.”

    This is what we see happening on smaller privately held parcels. These are the types of cuts that do not happen more because many environmental groups have lobbied to see land sold in larger blocks under conservation easement as opposed to some sub-division which would be better for the forest land in the long term. You can’t have it both ways.

    “The problem is that it takes a long time to grow a native uneven-aged forest. Yet, the clearcutting is done on the front-end. Long-term forest management is what allows a forest to recover. Long-term is not something that the TIMOs and REITs are all about. As discussed earlier, the TIMOs and REITs are short-timers, but they want to use the tools, such as clearcutting, for long-term management.”

    Peter I don’t understand this point. I agree these groups are not in it for the long haul, but if these tools are good for the forest in the long term then aren’t they good for the forest in the long term???

  18. Paul and Joe,

    Clearly there is exemplary forestry being practiced on various parcels in the Park. That’s not the issue. (Though there are also plenty of other small private forests getting hammered and high-graded.)

    The issue is that we’re a long long way from from long-term uneven-aged selective tree management on the easement and large industrial forest lands. It has not been an easy transition from the 150-year pulp cycle. I don’t see clearcutting large swaths, in effect “starting over” as they industry and its apologists call it, as a viable means to a future where we have a million+ acres in the Park producing high value saw logs. It seems heavily cut forests will be cut even harder.

    I see the TIMOS/REITs as being under tremendous pressure to meet their annual returns and the standing timber has to pay for those returns. This forecloses opportunities to significantly change the management. Short-term investments will lead to short-term management.

    Nothing in yesterday’s presentation by the APA addressed the issue of upper limits. Ok, Lyme Timber owns 250,000 acres. Will they do a 250,000-acre clearcut? No. The pictures we’ve posted show heavy cutting where they’ve hit an area with a series of small <25 acre clearcuts and other methods in order to avoid APA jurisdiction. Will they go back a clear out these areas or make larger clearcuts in a specific area — the starting over strategy? Highly likely with the GP. What will be the total acreage clearcut in a given year? Again, we don’t know, but it is safe to say that it will be on a greater scale that what we’re already seeing.

    For the all the reasons, and for the historical context, set above in my original post, it seems we’re in a race to the bottom for forest management on conservation easement lands. I've just started to look at non easement lands and they don't seem to be getting hammered.

    Dreams of long-term uneven-aged selective tree harvest forest management is a long ways off. Dreams of easement lands supplying high-value trees to local manufacturers, where one guy cutting trees supports 25 others at a mill or in local workshops, is a long ways off.

    This is not how it was supposed to be. The public paid a lot of money for sustainable forestry on easement lands and now we're being asked for a do-over. This was an economic and environmental investment. We don’t seem to be getting a return on either.

    Hammered lands are continuing to get hammered. And the APA seems intent on giving the industry even bigger hammers. It makes no sense.

    And 50-acre house lots connected by roads and power lines is not a viable model for protecting the Park's great open spaces or an unbroken contiguous forest or for the Park's working forests.

    • joe nexr says:

      I don’t think uneven stand management on these large old pulpwood forestlands is even going to happen. It is not realistic, never was, never will be. So, what to do next? I don’t know but history could repeat itself and like the original Park acerage, and so much that TNC sells the State, it may just revert to the State or some combination of the State and the counties after a period of non-payment of taxes.

      It will never be home lots as those rights were sold but it might have been a better option for keeping the forest canopy intact (not for timber production). Now the thing is just a mess.

      • joe nexr says:

        Or perhaps it will be forever managed as short cycle biomass growing areas, cut every ten to fifteen years. I doubt there is any spec they have to follow in their deeds. Their pulpwood supply contracts will end. And if their taxes are only based on the value of the timber growth, the math might work but in general it won’t be worth much at all just because of the way these financial structures work.

  19. Paul says:

    “And 50-acre house lots connected by roads and power lines is not a viable model for protecting the Park’s great open spaces or an unbroken contiguous forest or for the Park’s working forests.”

    Peter, I am certainly not suggesting any such thing. I do think that if you could have worked with things like hunting clubs to get the land into parcels of 1000 to say up to 10,000 acres. You would have had land owned by a group of people with a very long term view that would have only cut timber necessary to pay their taxes and keep them on the land they had been using for generations. That would have gotten us to the kinds of well managed parcels that you note in your first sentence above. Instead most groups lobbied for just the opposite. That the land be put under conservation easements and sold to TIMOs and REITs that have all the problems you describe well. I do not understand that strategy. All I know is that anyone who opposed it was demonized by many as some kind of pro-development wacko. You would see things like this:

    “And 50-acre house lots connected by roads and power lines is not a viable model for protecting the Park’s great open spaces or an unbroken contiguous forest or for the Park’s working forests.”

  20. Charlie says:

    “Charlie, this is industrial forestland, not state owned forever wild land. These people have every interest in growing better forests faster. Industrial forests are not pretty.Suggesting the APA Commissioners, many of who have served for eons, are somehow corrupt is just, um, out-of-line, to say the least. If you really care about this place do a little reaseach and get to know who this people are before hurling insults at them.”
    Insults? I was just expressing my thoughts on the matter joe nexr.I dont relate to your thinking when you say an industrial forest is not pretty. What’s not pretty about it? Do the trees need to be aligned in a certain manner in order to be appreciated? What about the generations of living things that have acclimated to that ecosystem that is taken down by hungry man who never seems to be satisfied? The insects,the frogs,salamanders,chipmunks,birds…..? The problem with this society is we cannot get beyond the gloss.We see trees as mere obstacles instead of the beautiful species they are.

    Joe Nexr also says:”Sorry John, but you misunderstand the experts. The region’s forest suffer from long term high grading, especially the industrial forest. They are not clearing fine old forest these days. They are clearing trash forest, the high value timber was taken long ago. At this point, the best way to deal with it is clearing and starting over.”
    The experts are corporate zombies Joe.Either that or they’re bought and paid for.The earning of profits is the corporations sole purpose.They dont care if they kill every last living thing on earth so long as their pockets are stuffed.Generally i mean,which is the same thing as almost wholly. Clear-cutting is not sustainable forestry.If you do your research you will discover the truth to that.The old New York State Forest,Fish & Game Commission Reports state clearly the hazards of clear-cutting if you know where to look in those reports. The science has been there well over a hundred years to prove this. We should have started ten years ago to start preserving every last eco-system on this planet earth.Instead we’re on a race to the bottom…who could destroy as much as possible in the shortest amount of time so as to attain wealth.Cant you see?

    • Paul says:

      Charlie, all of this may be true but in this particular case the actions of the groups that were claiming to protect these types of forests is in part what has lead to these destructive practices. The preservation groups preferred to see the land sold to larger corporations in very large (what they call) contiguous blocks rather than sold in relatively large well cared for parcels to owners that would have had a longer term view and probably cared for the land like you would like to see. Do you support they type of things that Protect and the Adirondack Council and other groups are lobbying for when it comes to private land in the park?

    • Nature says:


      There is a lot of preserved land now in the Adirondacks. If we preserve it all, where will I live? where will my wood products come from? What can I possibly do that will not in some way have a negative impact on some living creature somewhere? I do not support corporate greed, But I do support legitimate business. I support environmental conservation but I realize that some impacts are inevitable if I am going to exist. We should strive for balance and peace. Its OK.

  21. joe nexr says:

    Balance, Charlie, balance, not name calling. No zombies,no payoffs. Strive for a workable balance. Otherwise we are all stuck and bound to fail in confusion.

  22. Charlie says:

    Paul: I had no knowledge of what you say “the actions of the groups that were claiming to protect these types of forests is in part what has lead to these destructive practices.”
    Clear-cutting leaves the soil open to erosion,to the degradation of the nutrients in that soil.Each generation of new growth trees will be less healthier than the ones prior because of this. There should be more laws and there should be science behind those laws.Unfortunately money is more important than truth and science and life on earth. I quit supporting the Adirondack Council because of their vote on the Tupper Lake project,which is going to turn out to be a big mistake in the long run.

    Nature:If we preserve it all (or what’s left) future generations will thank us.Isn’t that what it supposed to be about…future generations? If it wasn’t for people that are long dead the Adirondacks wouldn’t be what they are today.
    You say “I realize that some impacts are inevitable if I am going to exist.” How much do you need nature?The problem is we are conditioned into conveniences that have softened us into mere mortals,mortals without soul.Until a new consciousness takes over the human race i see no hope for this planet.

  23. It’s time for APA Commissioners to conduct public field visits to clearcut forestlands to evaluate forest regeneration | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] on a new era of big clearcuts has ignited controversy in the Adirondack Park; see reports here and here. The APA’s new policy will pertain to forestlands that have received sustainable forestry […]

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