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To the Editor

As Vermont’s Director of Forests and an alumnus (Department of Forestry- ’75), I was pleased to see the forested scene on the cover in the Fall 2004 magazine, pleased that is until I turned to the article — “A Forest Threatened,” and discovered a one-sided view on the complex issues and opportunities facing the Northern Forest.

The article implies that there is not enough reserve land protected from development and extractive uses, and the call for more wilderness does injustice to significant progress in the protection of the Northern Forest.

Since 1994, unprecedented use of conservation easements on large-tract lands in the Northern Forest has occurred — some 2,500 properties covering over two million acres of forest are now under easements in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. There are over a dozen easements in the region exceeding 10,000 acres. Several existing or proposed easements are over 100,000 acres. This tool has allowed some landowners a way to realize the development value on their timberlands while continuing timber management practices.

Dividing former industrial timberlands into reserves and working forests is a tool for maintaining large ownerships of land and is emerging as a model of choice for land conservation projects in the region. A key example of lands conserved under the reserve/ working forest model include the so-called Champion lands in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (132,000 acres). Through the process, the parties negotiated the areas to protect as reserves and the lands to retain as working forests.

I am equally concerned over the lack of emphasis in the article on the traditional value and uses of the Northern Forest as a sustainable working landscape. Sustainability is often compared to a three-legged stool, with ecological, social and economic conditions necessary to provide stability. Yes, the forest products industry in the Northern Forest region has undergone significant change in the last decade, but it continues to be an economic driver in the region. This time period has seen a number of very high profile paper mill closings — some of which re-opened, while others have been dismantled and are permanently gone. On the lumber side, the last decade has seen two opposing trends — a number of mill closings, coupled with level or increasing production region-wide, despite the closings.

If we wish to maintain and protect what we hold dear in the Northern Forest region, a strategic approach to economic development which includes traditional forest products industries as well as emerging opportunities in recreation and eco-tourism are critical to overall forest sustainability.

Steven Sinclair ’75
Montpelier, Vermont

It was wonderful to see a cover story on the important research programs the University of Vermont is both supporting and conducting on pressing issues facing Northern Forest lands and communities. I did want to clarify two points, however.

The first is that the Northeastern States Research Cooperative (NSRC), the federal program that funds this diversity of social, economic, community, and ecosystem health research, is only made possible with support of the US Forest Service and the continuing, joint congressional leadership of US Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and UVM broadly are honored to be providing constructive leadership for this critically important program for Vermont and the entire Northern Forest region.

The second point is that the NSRC is a program solely created to support research and outreach derived from strong scientific research. The last two pages of the article in your magazine referred to a wilderness advocacy program led by a UVM alumna that, though relevant to a larger theme or debate on forest management policy in the northeast, has no relation to the NSRC research program. As the two appeared in the same article, a relationship might be inferred by some outside readers. As NSRC works hard to maintain an impartial, scientific, and educational mission in its research programs, it is important to make this distinction clear.

Thank you again for your article highlighting the work of our distinguished faculty here at the University.

Donald H. DeHayes
Dean, The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources