The person who leads Vermont’s public land watchdog has rejected an environmental group’s petition to create and adopt a set of formal rules to govern land management, which supporters say is urgent in the face of climate change.
Michael Snyder of the state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation said the department already has enough rules to guide the process.
The petition filed last month by Trees standing related to the Camel’s Hump Management Unit, which includes Camel’s Hump State Park, Camel’s Hump State Forest, and Robbins Mountain and Huntington Gap Wildlife Management Areas, but could have affected the management of other public lands if the rule-making process had advanced.
Standing Trees, an organization that campaigns for the protection of forests on public lands, argued that the rule-making process is required by State Law.
The petitioners called on the department to enact rules relating to “harvesting and cutting of trees” in the state’s forests, parks and natural areas, and demanded a moratorium on logging in the Camel’s Hump State Park and surrounding lands in the absence of this rule-making process.
They called for a new set of rules that would take more in-depth consideration of current state policies and research “regarding lost carbon sequestration and effects on greenhouse gas emissions, the quality of water, biodiversity, protection of endangered species, habitat fragmentation and public confidence in deciding whether to allow any proposed harvesting or logging of trees on state forest and forest lands. parks.
Published in 2021, the Camel hump management plan harvests approximately 3,750 acres of timber from the 26,000 acre management area over the next 15 years. A number of state policies, cited by Snyder in his petition response, encourage timber harvesting on state lands.
“Any productive conversation regarding state land use should acknowledge the clear guidelines and policy statements of the General Assembly recognizing the importance of timber harvesting to sustaining Vermont’s forests,” he said. he stated in his response last week.
Zack Porter, executive director of Standing Trees, said the group’s members are “less than satisfied with the response we’ve received from the state,” Porter said, “and continue to investigate the legality of it. this”.
He described the current process of managing public lands as a “choose your own adventure” for the state. He said more guardrails and accountability measures should guide decisions about logging on public lands. The US Forest Service has such rules, he said.
Standing Trees members and the 38 petition signatories based their efforts on a Vermont law that requires a state agency to begin the rule-making process if “25 or more people request that a practice or existing procedure be adopted by rule-making,” they wrote in the petition. .
In response, Snyder cited the exemptions included in that law, which state that the agency can issue a declaratory ruling that “disposes of the matter presented” if a rule is already in place.
Responding to the demand for a logging moratorium, Snyder wrote that Vermont lawmakers ordered the department to harvest timber and sell forest products, and that lawmakers specifically required a timber management zone within of the Camel’s Hump management unit.
Snyder wrote that the Camel’s Hump management plan “is clearly consistent with the multi-use approach authorized and directed by the General Assembly and appropriately protects threatened species and their habitats.”
Porter said Snyder’s response missed the purpose of the petition, which was to change the process that shapes the management of public lands.
Lawmakers, Porter said, have “required our commissioners to enact rules that govern how long-term state land management plans are developed, so the public isn’t guessing every time what it will look like. this process.
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