Logging a threat to ‘natural treasure’

This letter is in response to “Further discussions due on plan” (June 16), which was written in response to a letter concerning proposed logging operations at the College Lodge. The College Lodge is a 200-acre property managed by the Fredonia Student Association, and is considered to be a jewel of natural beauty and biodiversity to those who frequent the trails the FSA maintains.

I would first like to thank Michael Barone with Fredonia State University for clearing up any confusions concerning the ownership of the College Lodge. The FSA has managed the property for decades, since 1969, and it is absolutely crucial that the organization and it’s staff get due recognition for their efforts in preserving the natural heritage therein. That being said, there are some disagreements.

The writer states that invasive species and disease have become an issue recently, and the proposed logging operations are in response to these issues. The idea here is the harvesting needs to be conducted to fund the remediation plans for these issues.

In the same paragraph he states that the American Beech tree is one of these invasives, and is overrunning the “native” cherry and maple. This is erroneous because American Beech is in fact a native species, and is also crucial in the interconnections found in a forest’s ecology. Invasive species found within the forests of the College Lodge consist solely of shrubs and herbs such as garlic mustard, located near buildings and along roads. Their spread would be all but assured during a logging operation, which ironically contradicts the stated goals of this plan in the first place. In short – logging at the Lodge would only worsen the problem of invasives, not improve the situation.

The writer implies that beech scale has infected the trees and they need to be removed in order to ameliorate the issue. Beech scale has been present in western New York’s forests for more than 50 years, and only infects beech trees. This would have little effect on the native cherry and maple in the College Lodge forests, removing infected beech trees will have little effect on the distribution of the disease, indeed it could potentially remove individual beech that have a native hardiness against beech scale. So – the stance that beech trees are invasive is incorrect, and the idea that removing those infected with beech scale will in any way impede the spread of the nationwide disease is also incorrect. I would like to point out that sugar maples are shade-tolerant with a life history that is similar to American beech.

He next writes about ensuring forest regeneration. In the FSA forestry management plan under the wildlife section there is only one species mentioned that may benefit from the logging operation – whitetail deer. If forest regeneration is a goal (and while a worthy goal, regeneration currently is healthy at the College Lodge) management for more deer will be counterproductive. The whitetail deer is well known as a bane to forest regeneration. Overpopulation of these animals can severely hamper regeneration, as seen, for example, in Stigelmeier Park in Cheektowaga where there is a regular curtailment plan in place to shoot and remove problem deer so the park’s forests can regenerate. The FSA’s forestry plan as stated will not assist in regeneration. It will remove marketable lumber, spray herbicide on non-marketable species, and eventually cut down the maple and cherry that grow in their place.

The term “revenue neutral” has been thrown around quite a bit in reference to this plan. If this plan is revenue neutral, why is there a $7,000 to $13,500 net profit from the first two years of logging? This was calculated directly from the plan outlined by the professional arborist and forester hired by the FSA. After 2014, there are no longer any mention of specific profit numbers, I assume because the market for timber is volatile and an accurate estimate cannot be made. If this plan is revenue neutral, why are species considered to have low to none market value being targeted for removal/herbicide? As a revenue neutral plan it would seem like all species at the lodge would be given equal consideration.

There other issues to consider here as well. The effects to the flora and fauna of the lodge as a result of any logging operation are unacceptable. The Lodge forests are home to more than 130 species of birds throughout the year. Such avian biodiversity is astounding for any region, and should be especially cherished here in Western New York, where many forest bird species are hard hit by habitat fragmentation from both development and forestry operations. Species such as the scarlet tanager only live in forests, and will actively avoid edge habitat where their offspring are subject to increased predation by species that favor young forests.

Currently Chautauqua County is the last place in New York where little brown bats can be reliably found although they once numbered in the hundred of thousands or millions in the state. As forest dwelling species, the Lodge is assuredly of crucial import to bats as well, not to mention the other reptilian, amphibian and mammalian species.

The FSA does a heroic task on a daily basis. To any student, faculty or staff the SUNY Fredonia campus would be chaos without their work. However, nothing is free and I truly understand and sympathize with the FSA’s predicament concerning funding. That being said, there are other options for funding rather than destruction of a natural treasure.

As a community, I am certain we can find a way to bring added revenue into their coffers without resorting to a logging operation. Fund-raisers, regular nature programs, workshops, government programs…all are possible options. Personally, I am a registered Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor. Merit Badge Workshops would be an excellent way to provide education and experience to the Boy Scouts while simultaneously bringing money into the FSA. No single solution is perfect, but hard work and passion for safeguarding this resource is definitely a better option than the easy way out, which will remove trees that are older than any living human and cannot be replaced in our lifetime – all for a quick buck.

I urge anyone who cherishes the Lodge’s property as I do to attend the public meeting on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and make sure that our voices are heard.

Jonathan Townsend is a Stockton resident.