Environmental groups take aim at proposed Green Mountain National Forest logging project

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 11:02 PM EDT
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RIPTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The National Climate Coalition has ranked a proposed Vermont logging project among the ten worst for climate change in the nation.

The group says the Telephone Gap project is considering logging more than 10,000 acres of old growth in the Green Mountain National Forest.

“That’s an area equal to the size of Burlington that would be logged,” said Zack Porter, the executive director of Standing Trees. a Vermont organization working to protect public lands. He believes the project will do irreparable damage. “One-tenth of the Green Mountain National Forest is probably going to be logged in the next 10 to 15 years. The Telephone Gap Project would potentially add another 10,000 acres on top of that.”

Per the USDA’s Forest Service fact sheet on the project, logging is expected to begin in the spring of 2023. They say their goals are habitat and recreation improvements, as well as forest restoration work. USDA officials say the project is in line with President Biden’s recent executive order to protect old forests.

Porter says it isn’t clear how the logging is protecting or mitigating climate change. “Logging accounts for half of all tree deaths in New England,” he said. “Eighty-six percent of carbon released from our forests in New England comes from logging.”

We hoped the USDA would be able to better explain their plan, but officials declined a request for an interview. Instead, their communications coordinator sent WCAX the following statement:

“The Biden Administration is taking action to protect the nation’s old-growth forests, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, from a range of threats. Recent, peer-reviewed science continues to show that primary threats to mature and old-growth forests are wildfire, drought, and other climate-induced disturbances, as we are seeing in real-time with threats to sequoia groves and Yosemite National Park in California. Climate change is altering how we manage our forests, including our mature and old-growth forests. No longer is it enough to draw a line on a map around our old growth stands and think they will be protected against drought, wildfire, insect, and disease. To help guide the Administration’s efforts to protect these old-growth and mature forests, later this week we will also kick off a public comment process to ensure we are appropriately defining old-growth and mature trees. The President’s Executive Order also calls for an expedited inventory of mature and old-growth trees on Federal lands and the development of policies to institutionalize climate-smart management and conservation strategies that address threats to mature and old-growth forests on federal lands.”

The USDA is expected to open public comment on this project by the end of this month.

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