Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cutting and Running

Fascinating article in the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph on the consequences of "liquidation harvesting"... a type of timber cutting that goes far beyond the standard clear cut. According to the article.
The catalyst for the debate is T.R. Dillon Logging of Madison, Maine, which bought 22,500 acres last year in Success, an unincorporated township east of Berlin. Owner Thomas Dillon, who plans to “commercially clear-cut” about 3,000 acres a year for three years, also has bought 12,000 acres in other nearby towns in the past two years.
“He’s liquidating the land,” says Robert Brown, a member of the Berlin Planning Board, who often walks Dillon’s land in Success. “When this guy Dillon is gone – and I don’t blame him personally – the land’s going to be worth nothing. He’s going to subdivide it. We know that, and it’s tearing people apart up here.” Dillon’s cutting practices in Maine helped inspire a law restricting “liquidation harvesting,” defined as removing nearly all the commercially valuable timber from a parcel. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, bars owners from selling such land for subdivision within five years.
“A way of doing business here is you buy land, you cut it and you sell it, and if that’s a timber liquidator, that’s exactly what I am,” Dillon says cheerfully. But Dillon says he plans to keep the land in Success over the long term and has no plans to subdivide it. “I’m just doing what I need to do as a businessperson and pay my bills and pay my people,” he says. “But say you did want to sell it – it would be sold as a working forest. To go in and completely butcher it would defeat your purpose, so it would be bad business.”

Whether it's just business or bad business is in the eye of his neighbors. Some defend Dillon, and say he's just dealing with economic reality and does have a long term plan that includes selling land for a state park. However..
Henry Swan, chairman of Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, isn’t convinced. Swan, whose company manages timberlands for private and institutional investors, doesn’t think the state should buy land Dillon has logged.
“I don’t like states picking up the carcasses of land that somebody’s been able to rape and pillage,” says Swan, who also is state chairman of the Nature Conservancy. But even Dillon’s detractors say his practices are the result of economic forces bigger than any one landowner: the accelerating turnover of land ownership, new types of owners and vacation home development. Over the past two decades, the giant paper companies whose mills lie along rivers in northern New Hampshire and Maine have sold most of their lands to timber investment companies, which have sold to other timber investors or loggers-turned-landowners such as Dillon. Each new owner must cut more heavily to recover his costs and turn a profit. Once all the commercial timber has been logged from an area, it becomes ripe for subdivision or commercial development, permanently removing it from the working forest and fragmenting wildlife habitat. “Uncertainty of land ownership and the certainty of land turnover on an unprecedented scale have really rocked this state and this region to its roots,” says Jym St. Pierre from the Maine office of the environmental group RESTORE: The North Woods.

Add to the new economic reality, the changes in technology as well.
The accelerating changes in land ownership have been paralleled by leaps in the speed and efficiency of logging technology. To stay ahead of the machinery, most foresters now give their loggers “prescriptions” for cutting in large stands instead of marking individual trees to be harvested.
When Rick Gagne began logging in 1959, teams of horses dragged the timber out of the woods – and sometimes hauled out men injured by chainsaws or falling trees. Now his son, Pat, sits in the cab of a $450,000 processor, pushing buttons to instruct the machine’s arm to grab a tree, cut it, de-limb it and saw it into 8-foot logs – all in less than a minute.

There have been discussions by trusts to buy the land, but Dillon will only sell for the price he paid for the land, plus logging and gravel rights for four years.“What would we be buying?”(Charles) Niebling (of the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests) says. “We’d be buying a moonscape.”
But Niebling also says he doesn’t fault Dillon: “I wish that he had a different ethic toward the land, but that’s his business. He bought it, and we don’t have any laws that limit it.”

He bought it, and he can rape it if he wants to. Lovely. At least he's cheerful about it.


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