April - June 2001
North Star: The Magazine of the North Country Trail
Trail vs. Logging Problems Not Unique By Jerry Keeney President, Harbor Springs Chapter The article in the North Star, entitled "Logging's Aftermath" is of particular interest to the Harbor Springs chapter and to the Mackinaw Forest Council on whose board I have served for the past three years. Logging practices on Michigan's public lands have been one of our primary concerns. We go into sections of state forest that we know will be up for review for logging prescriptions and contracting. We hope to preserve potential old growth forests and some of the last best places that may be scheduled for cutting. We have found that it generally is too late to negotiate with logging companies once contracts have been issued. Even when we attend compartment reviews to designate certain stands of timber for prescriptions (cutting, burning, thinning), it has been difficult to get forestry units of the Department of Natural Resources to designate areas for old growth. The DNR has finally issued a document that proposes a process for developing old growth and biodiversity planning. Compartment reviews will be an important part of the process. My point is that members of the NCTA should find out if compartment reviews are going to be held in any areas near their sections of the trail, and then attend the reviews or open houses that precede the reviews. NCTA members should insist that not only the blazes be left intact, but also that heavy equipment should not be used on the trail. One common misconception is that all trees subject to removal are cut with chain saws. In fact most logging operations are carried out with heavy machines usually designated as processors. This type of cutting near any section of trail will leave damage to the trail just as skidders do. If there is to be any thinning near the trail, it should be done carefully with a chain saw. Any debris should be removed from the trail. There are three good examples that illustrate the problem with current logging practices in the Harbor Springs Chapter's section of the trail.
EJilor'd Note: The article in the !Mt i!Jue of the North Star de.Jeri/Jing damage to the trail from logging practices in Michigan 'J Upper Peninsula struck: a re.:JponJive chord with other chapters and particularly with the Harbor SpringJ chapter. The folhwing observations are by ilJ Pre.:JiJent. I will be referring to the Harbor Chapter's brochure that we placed at each trailhead to designate section of the trail by number. Section 6, between West Levering Road and Sturgeon Bay is an example of miscommunication between the NCTA and the DNR A section of trail was cut south and west of Wycamp Lake in an area scheduled for clear cutting. A few trees or stumps with blazes were left and debris was left on the trail. Then a blow down occurred over a section left exposed to the wind by the clear cut. If this area could have had a better contract negotiated, a lot of damage and hard feelings could have been avoided. The controversy raged for three years. Our Chapter negotiated a bypass around the blow down area and finished the 1500-foot trail this past summer. Richard Seibert surveyed the area and laid out the trail for our work crews and Arden Johnson came to help with his equipment. The Mackinaw Forest Council tried to stop a clear cut in Section 15, between Kipp and Brutus Roads. The clear cut occurred near a spot where Valley Road crosses the trail. You have to look long and hard to find the trail. Using my GPS I could find only three trees with blue diamond markings. About 500 feet of the trail had been erased. It will need to be cleared and a new, more direct path established between where the clear cut begins on the north and where the forest remains on the south. This area has already been impacted by the widening of Valley Road by the developer of the area. Fortunately some wonderful old chestnut trees were saved, as the development is called "Chestnut Valley". There is another section of trail nearby that goes through a hilly area that is marked for "thinning" which bears watching.
The third section, 2 just south of Stutsmanville Road contains giant ash, beech, maple and hemlock trees. The area was marked for "thinning" by an out of state firm. Outside contractors have been employed by the state of Michigan because of the "timber mandate" that requires over 69,000 acres of forest be cut each year. This has literally taken the forest practices out of the hands of the DNR and placed them under the control of logging interests in the state. The DNR does not have the personnel to mark this much acreage and has to resort to contracting with a firm in Wisconsin. Luckily the DNR forest technician for this area spotted trees with blue diamonds that were marked with red paint for thinning. He used black paint to cover the markings to save those trees. He has assured me that any damage to the trail will be repaired. The area west of the trail is a good candidate for old growth designation with its tip-up mounds, snagged trees and giant hemlocks, ash, and maple. Finally, I would encourage all chapters to find out if any areas near their section of the trail are going to be assessed for possible timber harvest, and attend the open houses or compartment reviews to stop the damage before it occurs. The DNR personnel have been extremely cooperative and courteous at all the reviews I have attended. In addition it's a great education in forest policy and procedure. Ten percent of Michigan Public forest is scheduled for review each year. Page 35 of the Old Growth document states: "Where non-motorized trails overlap with desired parcels, managers may consider what effect, if any, trail use may have on the unique natural features that make a parcel desirable for OG designation. While nonmotorized traffic may generally have little impact, managers should consider removing trails from OG areas if trail use harms the natural features that make this parcel important to the OG system." The 42 page document is an excellent education in Michigan forestry history and practices.