Trees illegally cut
Environmental agency violated environmental laws

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The state Department of Environmental Services broke state environmental laws by cutting too many trees near Lake Francis in Clarksville, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The department paid $1,200 in December for two violations along Cedar Stream Road discovered by state forest rangers.

The contract to clear trees encroaching on the dirt road also was not put out to bid and was not approved by the governor and Executive Council.

The department says the $1,500 contract was too small to be put out to bid or sent to the council, which must approve contracts worth $5,000 or more.

However, the logger also was entitled to sell the wood he cut, adding at least $7,000 to $13,000 to the contract’s value, according to state estimates of the value of wood “on the stump” and receipts showing how much wood the logger delivered to buyers.

Assistant Environmental Services Commissioner Michael Walls said one of the department’s employees directed the heavy cutting for road maintenance and safety, not the wood. The employee believed some trees well back from the road could fall across it, endangering drivers and snowmobilers.

“In his opinion, they were not healthy and they were subject to blowing down,” Walls said. He said he would not second-guess the employee’s judgment.

As for the value of the contract, the Water Resources Council, a public-private advisory group for Environmental Services, thought the wood had little value and would just compensate the logger for the considerable work required. Council member Bing Judd of Pittsburg said the state got a bargain.

“We got the whole roadside cut for $1,500. Otherwise, it would have cost the state $35,000,” plus the cost of chipping the wood and hauling it away, Judd said. “We were very lucky to get it cut.”

Guy Petell of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, which tracks wood prices and timber harvests, had no knowledge of the Clarksville job. Typically, however, state logging contracts are put out to bid, with loggers paying the state for the opportunity to cut and market the wood, not the other way around, he said.

The man who cut the trees was Josh Boire of West Stewartstown. Receipts show he delivered three loads of sawlogs and 12 loads of pulp logs to mills; most of the rest was sold as chips, either to the now-defunct Groveton Paper Board in Northumberland or to wood-burning power plants. He sold the wood for more than $75,000.

Boire said that after his expenses, he made very little because the trees were mostly saplings that took a long time to cut and chip.

“Normally, when we do jobs like that, we charge so much an acre and keep the wood, because it wasn’t a money-making proposition,” he said. “If I had it to do over again, I don’t think I would take that job.”

Regardless, Gov. John Lynch plans to speak with Environmental Services Commissioner Michael Tolin about the contract, said spokeswoman Pamela Walsh.

“Without knowing all the details and the cost of the work versus the cost of the wood, Governor Lynch does believe it sounds like something that should have been competitively bid,” she said.

The logging violations and some potential water quality problems were noticed by John Accardi, a state forest ranger, in October.

State forestry laws and the Shoreland Protection Act make it a misdemeanor to cut more than half the trees within 150 feet of a lake or large pond. The laws also require that the remaining trees be evenly distributed, not clearcut in one area and left untouched in another, Accardi said. Environmental Services is responsible for enforcing the Shoreland Protection Act.

Accardi said he cited the department instead of the logger because Environmental Services took responsibility for telling the logger what to cut. Accardi also reduced the charges from misdemeanors to violations because it was a first offense, he said.

“I wasn’t pressured,” he said. “I did that entirely on my own, based on the circumstances of the case.”

Accardi referred the water quality problems to the Wetlands Bureau of Environmental Services, which found the logger had failed to put in a temporary stream crossing, control erosion, or notify the bureau he was cutting in an area that could affect wetlands. It ordered him to stabilize and reseed the affected areas and remove sediment.

Boire said he put in a temporary stream crossing, but had removed it by the time the forest rangers showed up because he was done cutting in that area.

He said he will think twice before doing similar work for the state: He had to remove all his equipment, then bring it back, because the job was shut down for a few weeks while Environmental Services and forest rangers debated the legality of the heavy cutting.

“I got a chance to meet a lot of guys from Concord,” he said.

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