DCR Presents New Forestry Plans in Berkshire County

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
Print Story | Email Story
DCR officials presented six project proposals for logging in state forests for the first time in four years. Left, the Sherlock lot in October Mountain Forest is among those selected.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Conservation officials have unveiled the first local projects going forward with a new model of forest management unveiled by the Patrick-Murray administration earlier this year. They will reintroduce commercial logging in select parts of state forests for the first time since it was suspended in 2008.

The third of three scheduled public hearings throughout the commonwealth on six proposed forestry projects was held by the Department of Conservation & Recreation at the Pittsfield headquarters Thursday evening, allowing interested parties to comment on those which impact the western region.
These include two plans for timber harvesting in Berkshire County, for a block called the Egg Shell Lot in Sandisfield State Forest, and the Sherlock Lot in October Mountain State Forest. The DCR is looking to open areas of 165 acres in Sandisfield, and 166 on the Washington side of October Mountain for this purpose, in calculated initiatives the department says will help to encourage a more healthy forest.
Forestry experts for the DCR outlined the specific forestry plans, which they say will use silviculture practices to make strategic gaps to encourage more resilient, age-diverse woodlands, while helping to winnow down some trees of concern such as diseased Beech.
"The goal is to continue what we've done before," said Management Forester Conrad Ohman. "We want to demonstrate how an in-depth creation of gaps, expanding existing gaps, can result in a complex forest."
William Hill, supervisor of management forestry for the DCR, said the guidelines for these new site plans were crafted out of an earlier "Forest Futures Vision" process of public hearings and internal vetting that lead to the new statewide plan for forest management released last year. The plan, he said, focuses on two main directions of forest management: Diversity and Structure, and Rehabilition and Improvement.
"Our stepping back into forestry here was to achieve these goals for our woodlands," said Hill, "using these two broad directions, and looking to use innovative silviculture to do that."
The plan was well received by most of the approximately 25 members of the public that attended the hearing, including representatives of the timber industry as well as environmental groups such as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
One Brattleboro, Vt., activist, however, staunchly opposed the plans. Richard Stafursky, president of the World Species List forest organization, said he objected to the very theory behind the six new forestry site plans.
"To say that silviculture is a good thing for the forest is just ridiculous," Stafursky told the DCR officials, "It alters, it tortures the forest. If you have to do it, because the state wants to do it, fine, but it's not good for the forest. To say silviculture is some of the best ecological forest management is totally ridiculous."
Representatives of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance praised the initiative, saying it additionally would help redress some of the gap in Massachusetts wood product production. MFA Executive Director Jeffrey Hutchins said that only about 2 percent of wood products consumed by residents were produced in the state.
"We're in support of you, and we're committed to promoting that message of conservation through responsible management," said Hutchins.
"I'm glad to see that you're managing for forest health, but also it's a wonderful thing for our local economy," said Jeff Poirier, owner of Berkshire Hardwoods.
The public comment period for these proposals ends Jan. 3, after which the department will begin marking areas for harvesting. Some organized pre-harvesting walks will be scheduled for the late winter or early spring, as bidding for contracts takes place.  
Comments from the public may be directed to DCR forestry officials online here, or by emailing Timber.Comments@state.ma.us.

Cb Sherlock Lot
Sb Egg Shell Lot

Tags: forestry,   logging,   state forest,   

iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to info@iberkshires.com.

Ethics Commission Alleges Conflict Violations by West Stockbridge Chief

WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Enforcement Division of the State Ethics Commission on Wednesday filed an order to show cause alleging that West Stockbridge Fire Chief Peter Skorput, a former Select Board member, committed multiple conflict-of-interest law violations, including setting stipends for himself, his daughter and his nephew; voting as a Select Board member to reappoint himself fire chief; and terminating a firefighter who had filed a complaint against him.
According to the order, shortly after Skorput was elected to the Select Board in 2013, a West Stockbridge official contacted the town's counsel about conflict-of-interest law exemptions available to Skorput regarding his serving both as a Select Board member and fire chief. 
Allegedly, town counsel advised the official that Skorput follow the requirements for a particular conflict-of-interest law exemption that would allow him to accept pay for both positions, and this was communicated to Skorput. From the time he was elected until January 2017, however, Skorput did not meet the exemption requirements and violated the conflict of law by continuing to hold his compensated fire chief position after his election to the Select Board, according to the order.
The order further alleges Skorput violated the conflict-of-interest law by participating officially in matters involving his own and his daughter's financial interests. In 2013, Skorput allegedly voted as a Select Board member to reappoint himself as fire chief. Also, as fire chief, he allegedly decided the amount of firefighter stipends for himself each December in 2013-2015 and for his daughter in 2013 and 2014, and as a Select Board member signed the pay warrants for his daughter's stipends. Additionally, at several Select Board meetings in 2015 and 2016, Skorput allegedly participated as a Select Board member in the board's review of complaints about his performance as fire chief.
View Full Story

More South Berkshire Stories