Group Fights Logging in 13,000 Acre Park

The following article is by Kathy Thatcher, president of Friends of Pisgah. Pisgah is a 13,000 acre New Hampshire state park that's a few miles from Massachusetts and Vermont. The park's remote lakes are popular swim spots that require hiking to reach. The group's web site is www.FriendsOfPisgah.org. This article first appeared there.

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Greetings, as I write this, the sun is breaking through the clouds after another much needed rainfall. We can all breath a little easier, though we know what comes with the warmer temps and bursts of greenery. We must remember that even bugs have their important role to play in the natural world!

It is unfortunate that bugs are not the only hazard faced at Pisgah Park these days. Timber harvesting is now a prime state activity in the Park. Here is a brief background on the commercial harvesting in Pisgah. In 2008 a cut occurred in the southeast section of the Park, along the Jon Hill Road. That harvest was over an 82 acre parcel. The upcoming harvest will be in the northwest corner of the Park, accessed from the Horseshoe and Winchester Roads and the area of impact is 132.7 acres. The stated purpose is for harvesting timber and wildlife habitat management.

The Friends and most folks in southwest NH were under the impression that Pisgah was a “Park” and that commercial harvesting would not become part of the State’s management plan. Private lands were taken in the 1970s, not to construct a timber reserve but to provide a park for the whole state [particularly the citizens of southwest NH] to enjoy for recreational purposes, including hunting.

The Friends of Pisgah Council is still trying to understand how Pisgah State Park became designated as a Reservation, as was recently stated in the Introduction of the Pisgah State Park Management Plan. The idea of a Park for the southwest corner of the state began back in the 1960's as a vision of the N.H. Division of Parks. In 1967, the state legislature authorized $1,000,000 for the project on the condition that matching federal funds could be secured. In 1968, the Governor and Council approved the proposal for the multi-purpose recreational State Park, when the state was awarded matching funds through the Land and Water Conservation Funding Act [LWCFA], under the National Park Service.

The State claims the Park has always been open for commercial harvesting. In the state’s timber management plans for the Park,
over 65% of the Park will be impacted. It is stated that such timber activities may also restrict recreational use if there is a conflict with forest product extraction. In other words, recreation is not the primary purpose of Pisgah Park. What process was used in reclassifying Pisgah as a state reservation? When did such a process occur and who was involved in making such a decision?

In reviewing early official documents related to the creation of the Park, it is clearly stated that the land is to be purchased for the purposes of multi-use outdoor recreation. Since when is commercial timber harvesting outdoor recreation? We have asked
for and done searches for an amendment to the original agreement stating that commercial timber harvesting is permitted on the
property. No such documents have been discovered, thus far. There is mention of forestry and wildlife management, not
commercial timber harvesting. When the question about the value of wildlife habitat and forest health improvement in a healthy,
natural environment, is posed to most wildlife biologists the consensus is that the natural landscape has managed to take care of itself for millions of years. Timber cutting is not a valid wildlife management technique.

We need forest products. Commercial forestry is vital to New Hampshire’s economy. However, tourism, including outdoor
recreation, is an equally important economic contributor. Pisgah’s 13,000 plus acres of near wilderness are rare. Pisgah State Park must continue to be protected now and for the future. I for one, will do everything I can to preserve this incredible resource for present and future generations. I hope you will join me in this worthwhile endeavor.

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