Archive | Old Growth Forests

My Turn: Forget the labels – Sunapee trees are old – Concord Monitor

By Jolyon Johnson
For Concord Monitor – February 7, 2015

A recent report by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau confirms the existence of “exemplary natural communities” on Mount Sunapee’s west flank.

The study, conducted in the autumn of 2014, not only confirmed the findings of the 2004 study, it also enlarged the area formally designated as exemplary at Mount Sunapee State Park. These forests are directly in the path of the proposed expansion of the ski area. Continue Reading →

How do you describe Mount Sunapee’s rare old forest?

Polygon D 2014OctQ. – The manager of Mount Sunapee Resort has repeatedly stated that there is no old growth in the proposed expansion area. How do you and the Friends of Mount Sunapee respond to that claim?

A. – It is important to understand that, even among forest ecologists, there is some debate over the definition of the term old growth. Quite frankly, the term can be a semantic trap. The resort operators are missing the point by focusing on the term.

The focus should be on the facts:

1) New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB) identified and documented the existence of exemplary forest communities directly in the path of the proposed expansion.

2) Because of this designation these forests are protected under state law (Native Plant Protection Act RSA 217- A:7).

Profile sketch of reservation

See description below.

3) These forests do contain large, magnificent, old trees. Some of the older trees within the mosaic of exemplary forest communities on Mount Sunapee have been found to be over 250 years of age. These ancient trees are part of an ecological community, a complex interplay of plants (both living and dead), animals (including microscopic organisms), fungi, and soils that are not found in other, far more common forests that have been historically managed (ie. logged) by humans. These unmanaged areas are the last remnants of the primeval forests that covered much of this area prior to European settlement.

4) The forests on Mount Sunapee are living laboratories, valuable to forest scientists, for educational purposes, and for simple enjoyment by the public. And, they occur in Mount Sunapee State Park, land protected many years ago and held in the public trust.

5) The first priority of the N.H. state park system according to state law (RSA 216-A:1) is “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational, and natural areas of the state.”

What better fits that mandate than these beautiful exemplary forest communities?

Figure 1 (above), included in the NHB study (1999) “Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area,” illustrates the reservation’s forest history on Mount Sunapee.

The reports states: “The original purchase of 656 acres in 1911 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests was initiated to protect land from extensive logging which started in 1906 (Ayres19150). By 1934, SPNHF owned 1,185 acres, including cut-over and old growth forests. In, 1948, the state took ownership of the mountain and opened the Mount Sunapee State Park with a ski area on the north face of the mountain (MacAskill 1981).” – NH Natural Heritage Bureau (1999)

AP News Break: Old forest may derail Sunapee expansion

Read the AP article:

Polygon D 2014OctOld forest may derail Sunapee expansion plan 

New Hampshire Forest & Lands confirmed this week the existence of exemplary natural communities on Mount Sunapee State Park’s west flank, directly in the path of the proposed expansion.

This is very good news for our cherished Mount Sunapee State Park and the protection of the park’s natural heritage and scenic beauty.  Read more…

A forest treasure by Christopher Kane

This week conservation ecologist Christopher Kane passionately spoke out about protecting the old-growth forest on Mount Sunapee in a letter published in the Concord Monitor (Dec. 16, 2014). Chris Kane has been studying the older forest areas on Mount Sunapee on and off since 1997.

Old growth forest cannot be created. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I strongly urge any and all decision-makers who have a role in the upcoming decision to grant a ski lease expansion at Mount Sunapee to deny this request for the broader benefit of the citizens of New Hampshire.  Read more…

A false argument: “expand or perish”

In response to a recent letter published in several New Hampshire newspapers regarding the proposed ski area expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park, we share this response from a Goshen resident, who wrote:

1. To frame the issue as either “expand or perish” is inaccurate. The current operators of the ski area have provided quality skiing for years now, and will continue to, with or without the proposed expansion. In fact, the resort operators have a large number of “improvement projects” already planned and approved for the existing ski area, that have not been implemented. If improvements are so critical to their success, it would make sense to complete approved projects before proposing a large expansion.

2. On the issue of old growth forest: Yes, New Hampshire is a heavily forested state. In general, well planned forestry operations pose no threat to the viability of the region’s forests. What the writer fails to understand is that 99% of the region’s forests have been cutover two or more times since European settlement. Old growth forest, such as what is found in Mount Sunapee State Park, has never been logged and is extremely rare, constituting less than one percent of existing forest. The mosaic of old growth forest in the park is the largest of its type in Merrimack County, and likely the largest in the state south of the White Mountains.

In addition, the undeveloped west flank of Mount Sunapee is the northern end of the Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands, an unfragmented forest block that has been recognized by state wildlife officials as critical habitat and an important travel corridor for large mammals such as moose, black bear, and bobcat.The disturbance caused by the construction of proposed ski infrastructure (parking lots, snow making and grooming, ski lifts, sewage disposal areas, concessions, etc.) would greatly diminish the value of this habitat.

In considering these and other points regarding the proposed expansion, it is important to remember that this concerns a state park—public land protected many years ago for a wide range of public uses, not solely as a ski area, nor as a generator of wealth for corporate resort owners.

Forest Society speaks to old growth forest protection on Mount Sunapee

“… the mountain has a history of protection for the primary purpose of saving “primeval forest.” – NH Forests & Lands, Natural Heritage Inventory of Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area (1999)

The full environmental fallout from resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park is unknown. What is known: Old growth forest is in the direct path of a proposed new ski lift and trails, according to a 2004 NH Natural Heritage Bureau evaluation of the ski expansion area.

The Forest Society believes the many questions raised about the expansion need answers by the lease operator “before the State considers how to respond to the proposal.”

Additionally, the Society recently addressed the State’s “standard of review” when considering old growth protection on Mount Sunapee.

One question is how the proposed “West Bowl” ski expansion will impact the ground that is presently in an undeveloped state.  Work done by the N.H. Natural Heritage Bureau (a division of DRED) suggests that there is good cause to further study the presence of old growth forests on the land now targeted for development.  A preliminary NHNHB study suggests the proposed West Bowl expansion will impact old growth forests presently on State Park land.  Ten years ago, a proposed ski expansion into the east bowl of Mount Sunapee was denied due to old growth forests there.  The same standard of review should apply to the west bowl expansion.

There are a host of other important questions looking for answers.  The sooner DRED asks and answers these questions, the better informed its decision will be about whether (and, if so, how) to proceed. – The Forest Society News, November 17, 2014

Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort failed to provide current and complete impact studies in its Environmental Management Plan (required by the State) and failed to acknowledge the existence of the old-growth forest on State Park land within the expansion area.

Related information:

Resort’s environmental plan is flawed (FOMS Latest News)

Old Growth Forest on Mount Sunapee (See FOMS library of Studies and Related Information)

The Forest Society’s comments delivered to a public hearing in August held by Commissioner Jeff Rose of the NH Department of Resources & Economic Development and a subsequent letter to the Commissioner.

 

Herbert Welsh: Protect Mount Sunapee for All People

Hebert Welsh

Herbert Welsh (1851-1941), the walking crusader and father of land conservation on Mount Sunapee. (Photo from “The New Gentleman of the Road” – copyright 1921.)

Herbert Welsh: “Save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time!”

Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) was an political reformist, an artist, humanitarian, Indian Rights activist AND in many ways the father of land conservation on Mount Sunapee.

In the early 1900s, Welsh led the effort to protect land on Mount Sunapee for public use. At the time, from 1906-1909, extensive clear-cut logging was underway on the mountain’s north face.

“It seemed clear to Welsh and many of his [Sunapee] neighbors that the beauty of Mt. Sunapee was being ruined and its primeval forest and rare plants were in danger of disappearing…. He was determined to put a stop to the destruction.” – SooNipi Magazine, Summer 2004 – Download/read: Herbert Welsh, SooNipi 2004 (pdf 492KB) – “Herbert Welsh: Walking Crusader” by Shelly Candidus

The unspoiled natural environmental inspired and moved Welsh into action.

It was earlier, in 1909 while summering in Sunapee, Welsh became alarmed about what was happening on Mount Sunapee. Paper companies controlled a greater part of the mountain and they were clear-cutting and harvesting lumber leaving a growing bald spot pocked by stumps and slash— destruction that Welsh could observe from his lakeside home. Cutting was planned that would leave the mountain bare.

Welsh went into action. Welsh’s first effort, part of his campaign “to save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time,” raised $8,000 and with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests purchased from the paper companies 656 acres of land and timber rights on Mount Sunapee’s northern slopes, including the summit and Lake Solitude. His passion about protecting the mountain’s natural environment is detailed in his writings including “Redemption of Mount Sunapee,” which he penned while at his Sunapee home.

The 1911 purchase on Mount Sunapee marked the Society’s first reservation. The campaign to protect Mount Sunapee continued with the acquisition of more conservation land, land to be open to all people for outdoor “recreation and health.” From 1922 to 1937, the Society purchased several more parcels on the mountain. In 1948 after acquiring 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee, the Society transferred their holdings to the state of New Hampshire for a state park.

Welsh served the Society as a Vice-President At Large and as President of the Sunapee Chapter, from its formation in 1912 to at least 1934.

If we saved Mount Sunapee we would indeed be doing this, but we would also be doing something higher and nobler than acting for our own protection; we would be helping to affect our part of the great national work of forest conservation. — Herbert Welsh in “Redemption of Mount Sunapee”

Time line:

1909 – 1911– Herbert Welsh leads a successful educational and fund-raising campaign to protect Mount Sunapee after he discovers large paper companies intend to clear the mountain’s steep slopes and peak. He enlists the help of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

1911 – The Forest Society acquires 656 acres on Mount Sunapee, the Society’s first reservation, which is followed by additional purchases.

1915 – The Society’s Sunapee Chapter, under Welsh’s leadership, publishes The Manual of Mount Sunapee. It details the mountain’s geological history, flora, birds and ferns.

1930’s – The Newport Ski Club cuts alpine trails on Mount Sunapee.

1948 – The Forest Society transfers 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee to the state of New Hampshire and, in December, the Mount Sunapee Ski Area opens at Mount Sunapee State Park.

 

 

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