NORTH HUDSON - The state Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating whether logging operations on land owned by The Nature Conservancy caused too much sediment to enter at least one stream, including one that is believed to be home to brook trout.
The logging was being done by Ron Bovee Trucking and Logging of Corinth and is being overseen by Finch Forest Management of Glens Falls. It was taking place north of the Blue Ridge Road in the town of North Hudson on land formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn and Co. The land is part of 65,000 acres the Conservancy is trying to sell to the state so it can be added to the Forest Preserve.
The Nature Conservancy admitted that there was more runoff than normal last week from where the logging was taking place on their lands and that some of the runoff went into the streams running through a neighbor's property.
North Hudson resident Dan Snyder says that logging activity on nearby Nature Conservancy property may have caused damage to the fish habitat in this trout stream that runs through his property. This photo was taken Friday.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
On Sunday, the same stream appeared to have returned to its normal, clear state.
(Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Chapter)
This muddied stream is not home to trout.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
A muddied wetland
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
"There's some turbidity in some streams in the springtime, but we think there was runoff from that operation into some of the small streams," Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy Executive Director Mike Carr said. "We have a 100-foot buffer on the trout stream, which exceeds best management practices. But we think because it was so warm ... that a lot of that snowmelt came all at once and there was some sedimentation coming off the logging roads."
So far, no tickets or stop work orders have been issued, according to the involved parties. But Finch Forest Management did voluntarily shut down the logging operation last Tuesday to assess the situation after it was brought to their attention, according to Conservancy officials. Then, on Friday, Finch Forest Management halted logging operations for the winter harvest season because of the muddy conditions.
To prevent continued runoff, last week the loggers put down straw bales in streams to act as filters, and they put water bars along logging roads, said Len Cronin of Finch Forest Management.
Carr said he was at the logging site Sunday and that the efforts to prevent further runoff seemed to have worked. On Monday, the Conservancy provided the Enterprise with a photo of one of the streams to show that its waters were clear as of Sunday.
"There was no siltation at all," Carr said. "Everything was running clear. We were pleased to see that the mitigating measures we took were effective."
The DEC investigation started last Tuesday after North Hudson resident Dan Snyder, who lives downhill from the logging operation, contacted the DEC. Snyder told the Enterprise he noticed muddy water in two streams and in wetlands on his property.
"It's never been like this," Snyder said Friday, while standing next to one of the streams. "This isn't spring runoff."
He said one of the streams is home to brook trout and that both run into the Branch River. Too much sediment in waterways can have a negative impact on brook trout habitat, including filling in gravel streambeds where they spawn.
On Sunday, Snyder said the water had cleared up but he was concerned that fish habitat may have already been compromised.
"I tried to warn them about the streams," Snyder said.
Snyder has been at odds with the Conservancy since last summer, when he said he contacted them with concerns about the logging operations taking place near his property and about the potential for damaging the trout stream. He has also written letters to the editor that were published in the Enterprise with similar concerns about the streams on his property. The letters included harsh criticisms of the Conservancy as a national operation.
Snyder has also admittedly trespassed on the Conservancy's lands to investigate the forestry operations, something the Conservancy has asked him not to do for both legal and safety reasons.
In defending the logging practices on its lands, the Conservancy has maintained that its organization and Finch Forest Management "adhere to the highest levels of forest management practices currently in use," Conservancy spokeswoman Connie Prickett said.
Finch Forest Management and the Conservancy follow the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification requirements, which require a 100-foot buffer and special treatment area standards that are aimed at providing necessary safeguards to conserve habitats along waterways.
"We go above and beyond the best management practices that are suggested by New York state on all the lands that we manage to minimize siltation that happens in the water bodies, such as what happened last week," Cronin said. "It's important, when we talk best management practices, to realize that best management practice strategies are to minimize siltation and to not to prevent it entirely."
Under the FSC and SFI certifications, the Nature Conservancy's management plans and practices are subject to annual third-party audits, Prickett said, noting that no violations were found in the most recent audit, which was done this past fall and included the Blue Ridge Road tract.
Still, Snyder was convinced that the best management practices weren't always followed. He hired a forester, Lloyd Staats of Niche Forestry in Essex, to look at the situation last week. Staats prepared an assessment of the situation, which was provided to the Enterprise Monday.
"The abnormal turbidity of brooks #1 and #2 appear to be the result of a timber harvest that has occurred on the abutting property, to the north of the landowners property," the report states. "Although various best management practices were applied during the planning and marking of the harvest, the negative impacts to the brooks may have been avoided had the harvesting operations halted prior to spring thawing conditions, which is also part of (best management practices)."
"The problem is they logged in this warm weather and no one called it off," Snyder said.
Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or mlynchadirondackdailyenteprise.com.