Environmental group sues over Camel’s Hump logging plans

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 4:59 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - An environmental group is suing the state of Vermont over a logging operation on Camel’s Hump.

The group Stranding Trees, and two Duxbury residents are suing the state and the commissioners of the Department Forests, Parks and Recreation, and Fish and Wildlife.

“This lawsuit is all about putting the public back into public land management,” said the environmental nonprofit’s Zack Porter.

The lawsuit was filed in Vermont Superior Court and alleges that the state is not following its own rules regarding logging on state-owned lands. It names Camel’s Hump State Park and the Camel’s Hump Unit Management Plan, which was finalized in 2021. According to the complaint, the plan lays out 34 timber sites with harvesting to occur between this year and 2036. According to standing trees, there was no way for the public to challenge the plan.

“They don’t have absolute authority over those lands. They have to manage those lands in a way that meets the public interest, protects public health and safety, protects our soil and water resources. Right now, we have no way of ensuring that law is being followed,” Porter said.

“We believe that our preexisting policies are lawful and appropriate. We have standards that are accepted management practices for timber harvest that will be followed in each of these logging jobs. And we believe that those are both environmentally appropriate but environmentally protective,” said Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

Standing trees also accuse the state of breaking its own laws by not creating rules for planning for state land management. “The law says that the state has to issue -- rules essentially are a way for the state to set clear standards and expectations for the way that things will be done,” Porter said.

Moore says she understands the concern and will encourage open conversations on the topic of rule-making and transparency. “We also acknowledged it really is best practice and are planning to initiate rulemaking regarding all of the more than 350,000 acres of state lands. I think backing up and taking a wider view of timber harvest is essential to keeping our forests and that is one of Vermont’s most valuable assets when it comes to fighting the effects of climate change,” she said.

The lawsuit is also asking the court to put a temporary hold on logging contracts for state-owned lands that have not gone out to bid while it considers this case.

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