In response to questions and concerns received by the Town and the Conservation Commission, the Conservation Commission is providing the Public with more information regarding the ongoing timber harvesting operations in the forests surrounding Sandra Pond. The timber harvesting is part of a State Approved 10-year forest management plan.
The purpose of the timber harvesting program is to manage the forest around the reservoir with the following goals:
- Removing diseased trees.
- Removing storm-damaged trees.
- Reducing the density of trees.
- Promoting growth of diverse tree species throughout the reservoir area.
- Promoting an uneven-aged forest with a healthy range of young, middle-aged, old, and dead trees to provide a variety of habitat types for different kinds of wildlife.
- Maintain the structural integrity of the secondary earth dam at the northern end of Sandra Pond, which is being compromised by tree roots that are causing the dam to leak.
- Reducing the potential for storm damage (dense stands are more likely to have multiple trees knocked down in a large storm).
Large portions of the forest around Sandra Pond are not natural stands. Most of the conifer stands are single species that were planted at the same time, as far back as 70 or more years ago. These stands are so dense that new trees cannot take root and new species cannot move in.
In decades past, the forest around the pond was subject to periodic thinning operations by the DPW but this practice stopped over 30 years ago.
The Conservation Commission is fully cognizant that the timber harvesting process will not look "pretty" or park-like in the short term, but will result much healthier the ecosystem. In addition, once the operation is complete, the DPW will grade out the areas where the timber harvesting machines worked and plant the paths with a conservation mix to promote rapid plant growth. Over time, the opened canopy will allow new trees to sprout and existing understory growth to accelerate.
The use of timber harvesting machines will also result in less damage to trees that will remain. Trees felled by hand often damage other trees as they fall, and the damaged trees are more likely to die from the damage or from disease. Tree felling is controlled by the mechanized removal process. Damage to remaining trees has been minimal to date.
The timber harvesting operations are being inspected by the Town Conservation Officer and DPW staff at least once a week and the contract for the logging program has very tight performance specifications.
The Conservation Commission and the Town Department of Public Works ask town residents to be patient as this process moves forward. We also request that people stay out of the areas being harvested because of dangers due to the timber harvesting machinery.