by Mart Allen

DID WEST CANADA OPERATION VIOLATE PERMIT CONDITIONS?

November 20, 2001

 

I ended last week’s column on a controversial crossing of the West Canada Creek during a logging operation with comments by an ALC Board member. He personally viewed the scene where the operation had taken place in the fall of ’98 and fall and winter of ‘99-2000 shortly after I reported the incident.

In a report to the Club President on August 3, 2000, he closed by recommending "the discussion around Mart" be tabled until a more thorough review of the situation could be made. The Board’s reaction was typical of its actions over a long period of time. Instead of directly and honestly facing the problem, they deferred to management’s version and castigated the person bringing the condition to their attention.

On August 10, 2000, I was sent a letter of censure by the Board for attempting to bring conditions to its attention that are contrary to the general precepts of it "Constitution and Bylaws." It’s content was summed up in one sentence: "If you are not willing to fulfill the responsibilities of a member, then either you should consider resigning or we will be forced to take disciplinary action."

When I realized the gravity of the actions I was attempting to bring to their attention were of little consequence when weighed with the importance of putting me in my place, I folded my tent. I decided to abdicate my responsibility along with the State and Club. Why should I go out on a limb if they didn’t care? I am ashamed to say I was in a sense bullied into compromising my principles. I kept a low profile until August 25, 2001, when that all changed with another letter of censure. This was from the Chair of the Fish, Game Preserve Committee, who was, coincidently, the same person who as President of the Club at my retirement wrote in glowing terms about me as stated in the beginning of the first column in this series. In it he accused me of repeatedly violating a Club rule with no basis, truth of fact, in a particularly abrasive tone.

That locked it and as the old saying goes, I was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. I suddenly realized that bullies never relent and we have to stand up for ourselves and what’s right. I realized that since I had no avenue open to me through the Club, I would have to avail myself of this venue as the only available alternative. I submit the further proof that my allegations of repeated transgressions are based on sound foundations.

All of the problems I had attempted to illuminate were swept under the table and downplayed or misrepresented to the membership as a whole. I knew they would be totally outraged if they had any inkling of how their reputations were at risk or how their lands, waters or resources were being treated. How do I know? Because I worked for them for 22 years, guided and interacted with the membership for another 9 years. As a Club member, Club business is my business too.

A carefully crafted perception that my concerns are based on personal considerations is totally untrue, at least from my quarter. In spite of several problems, other than forestry, I will stick with that area where I have over 40 years of experience to prove my point. The photos I submit should conclusively prove that they are testament to what has been described as a professional forestry program is far from reality.

The Forestry Committee had one member in 1999 who was eminently qualified for the assignment. He was a recently retired 43-year career forester. In a letter to another ember of the committee on the subject of water quality, he had this to say: "In any event we (ALC) should be extremely careful and conduct close inspections on all Club logging operations to see that erosion control measures are in place."

In his letter of resignation on March 2, 1999, to the Committee Chair he made the following observations.

"Having participated in two meetings, I have observed the lack of appreciation for the technical advice from professional sources. Because of this, I feel that my time is wasted.

"It seems as though the staff insulates itself from the recommendations of the Committee and discounts the wisdom of its members.

"Throughout my extensive career in forestry I have served in the capacity of committee member, chair and professional consultant, so I am aware of the need for collaboration at all levels. ‘Since there appears to be little regard for the input of the Committee, I choose to submit my resignation."

His concerns are well-founded since erosion and siltation of water cause harmful effects in several ways. To quote from the New York State Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) Guide: "Sedimentation and turbidity (cloudiness)---caused when the eroded soil finds its way into a stream, wetland pond or lake---can damage fish habitats and spawning areas, and make the water unsuitable for other uses downstream." Where there is any possibility of any of the above happening, State or Federal regulatory agencies require on site inspections and permits outlining conditions which must be followed with them.

Bear in mind, if the conditions of the permit are not adhered to the operator is in violation. The operations depicted in the photos I submit all graphically show extremes in their results. They say to me that they prove negligence on the part of some or all of the parties involved or responsible for them.

In sum total, tons of sediment and debris were transported miles from their original locations. Merely spreading hay or seeding the areas months later does not in any way replace or restore the site to its original condition.

Sad as it is to say, large private land holdings are most often the worst violators. An editorial in the Northern Logger and Timber Processor (December 1999) gives an example. A logger was explaining his frustration with trying to deal with the dictates of the landowners.

"I am working on this paper company wood lot," he explained, "and we’re making ruts 4 feet deep. Nobody’s got any business working on this site under these conditions, but they’re pushing me to keep up production".

The editor pointed out that thanks to the American Loggers Council the "Inconsistent Practices Protocol" of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is a procedure allowing anyone to confidentially report questionable forest management practices. Since he knew the company was bound by the SFI guidelines an Inconsistent Practices report should be filed. "Well, it’s not going to be me<" the logger said. "Man, we’re about 10 miles back in the woods on company land and the only way anyone else would know about it is if they were either flying over or trespassing. Because of the ruts, you can’t even drive a pickup back here. I can’t afford to stick my neck out."

I know just how he felt when I first flew over the crossing on the West Canada in the fall of ’98. The scene which was readily discernable with the leaves off, ground covered with mud and ruts, reminded me of scenes I had seen of the Battle of the Argonne in World War 1.

There is no question in my mind what the other members of the Club would think if they could see the same scene I did. In the more years that I care to remember of stump jumping, I had never seen anything like it. Viewing it from the ground the following summer, later that fall, and finally on the 27th of May, blew my ind. Harder yet was the way the Club Forestry Committee Chair and Board of Trustees tired to whitewash it.

The King has no clothes!

Fortunately, the combined number of people that comprise the above august bodies is only a very small percentage of the nearly 400 membership. They may think the reputations of the few people responsible for this aberration are more important than mine or the Club’s, but I do not.

I cannot forgive this action, even if it were the only one I ever witnessed on the Club in the past 10 years, for the simple reason that it is not. There are many others, which like the one I have been describing, serve only one good purpose – they can always be used as bad examples.

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