West Paris tree harvest given go-ahead

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WEST PARIS — Residents gave selectmen the green light to harvest from a town-owned woodlot, the third such cut in the past five decades.

A forester is expected to begin work marking which trees are for harvest following Thursday night’s special town meeting, where 14 residents unanimously voted to give town officials the authority to harvest from the lot. 

The town owns a 125-acre woodlot along High Street near the town border with Paris, from which it periodically harvests a select number of trees, with the proceeds of the sale invested in an infrastructure product. It previously conducted such harvests in the 1990s and 1960s, according to Selectman Wade Rainey. 

Trees will be marked for felling depending on age, condition and potential value, forester Norman Forbes said. 

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In addition to healthy, mature trees, harvest efforts will focus on trees damaged from storms, pests and past logging. 

“There’s a good chance if we manage this right, we’ll ensure a good lot of trees for the future,” Forbes said. 

A dollar value to the net worth of the trees has not been assigned, and an inventory of the number and condition of the trees will occur before the harvest. 

Forester Wayne Millen asked Rainey why the town chose not to place the forestry consultant services out to bid, instead striking a verbal agreement with Forbes. 

Rainey responded that Forbes was in agreement with selectmen on the timing of the harvest.

“I have some reservations with the company you work for,” Rainey said, though he did not elaborate on what they were.

After the survey, the project will be advertised for companies to bid. Rather than harvest the timber in one swoop, selectmen said they will spread the project out over two years to allow local, smaller companies a fighting chance.

The harvest will be contained to conventional logging methods to protect the future use of the resource, Rainey said. Loggers will be restricted to hand-held chain saws, and trees must be hauled out with unobtrusive equipment to mitigate the damage to the future crop of trees. 

Revenue generated from the sale will be placed into a special account only accessible with voter authorization. Town officials are hoping to eventually use the proceeds — felling isn’t expected to start until this winter — to purchase equipment for the Highway Department and build a sand storage shed.

Completion of that project isn’t expected for another two years, according to Rainey.

ccrosby@sunjournal.com

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