Chipping away at logging plan

By BEN CARPENTER

In Chautauqua County, we know forests. What more, we know their importance to the hydrological cycles, to the viability of wetlands and as habitat for protected species, like painted trillium, goldthread, and dwarf ginseng.

Fredonia State is the proprietor of one of the larger swaths of high quality forest in the region: 200 acres of hardwood old growth – a rarity these days. The College Lodge and nature preserve, located on Route 380 in Brocton, provides not only immaculately kept facilities for weekend retreats, but public opportunities for cross country skiing, hiking, and wildlife observation.

The college’s land stewardship is apt. In these times of flagging enrollment, the administration is seeking to repackage the school as an institution with sustainability essential to its brand.

Oddly enough, though in response to this same financial pressure, the Faculty Student Association has recently revealed plans to begin commercial logging at the College Lodge. Wilderness preserved for the education and enjoyment of the general public, is to be carved up and transformed into a collection of agricultural zones, managed to maximize production of a few tree species. For those who think this is the portrait of hypocrisy, I encourage the review of the Forest Management Plan that has been made available on the Facebook group, “Friends of SUNY Fredonia College Lodge”.

“To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution in all intelligent tinkering” said Aldo Leopold. As the father of modern land conservation, Leopold was not against the responsible management of natural resources. As opposed to the preservationist John Muir, Leopold was convinced that harmony could be achieved between man’s desire to build and nature’s capacity to provide. He believed that with an eye towards effective land management, humans could light their homes and fill their cupboards, while keeping a viable biosphere more or less intact.

However this meant keeping interconnected relationships unbroken. Critics of the Forest Management Plan worry that biodiversity and the long-term health of the land are not being taken into consideration. This is founded on the recurrence of the phrase, “Timber Stand Improvement”, referring to the practice of selecting for a handful of marketable species – in this case maple, cherry and ash – and removing almost everything else.

The wisdom follows that areas “plagued by undesirable species” impede the growth potential of these more marketable trees. The widespread application of herbicides is explicitly recommended in the Forest Management Plan with little regard to subsequent impact on food webs and habitat loss.

Logging in this part of the state is common, and provides a great income supplement for many families. But colleges have higher operational costs; FSA’s takeaway from pulpwood and lumber production will be marginal – it would hardly pay after 10 years what one full time student pays in four.

Again, read the Forest Management Plan, and join the discussion. Even if you have no affiliation with the college, this is your home. Call the SUNY Fredonia public relations office at 673-3323 to tell them what you think.

Ben Carpenter is a Fredonia resident.