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Local Coalition Challenges Proposed Logging Project in Effort to Protect Scenic Lake Tarleton

Timber Sale targets 700-acres of mature forests and critical wildlife habitat surrounding one of the largest, cleanest, and least-developed lakes within the White Mountain National Forest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, May 2, 2023


Contact:

Jessie Forand, jessie@junapr.com, 802-370-0611

Zack Porter, Executive Director, Standing Trees, 617-872-5352, zporter@standingtrees.org


SOUTH ROYALTON, Vermont — Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic, on behalf of the Lake Tarleton Coalition and forest protection group Standing Trees, submitted an objection on Monday with the U.S. Forest Service, seeking reconsideration of the flawed Tarleton Integrated Resource Project (Project) in Grafton County, New Hampshire. The Tarleton Project would authorize nearly 700-acres of commercial logging in and around Lake Tarleton in the towns of Piermont and Warren, including in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail.


“Ignoring years of community opposition to this Project, the Forest Service is refusing to follow current science and the law and putting this tremendous resource at risk,” says Christophe Courchesne, Senior Attorney and Assistant Professor of the Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “Given the importance of the older forests of the White Mountains to the region’s climate resilience and biodiversity, the Forest Service must update its approach and take a different course here.”


The objection shows how the Forest Service’s approval of the Project disregards both federal laws and the importance of the lands and waters to local business owners, residents, and recreationists, and instead treats one of New Hampshire’s largest, cleanest and least-developed lakes as a woodlot. During an earlier comment period, the Forest Service received over 500 comments on the project, with over 90% in opposition. The objection process is the Forest Service’s last chance to modify the project and avert litigation.


The Tarleton Project threatens a long history of community-led conservation. In 1994, the proposal of a massive resort surrounding Lake Tarleton inspired a multi-year conservation effort, led by the Trust for Public Land, to preserve Lake Tarleton. Countless individuals, organizations, businesses, the State of New Hampshire and the U.S. Congress rallied together to raise $7.5 million to secure public ownership forever as part of the White Mountain National Forest. Their vision was permanent protection of the “wilderness quality” of Lake Tarleton, and this project threatens to destroy that vision.


“Lake Tarleton is a jewel in the crown of the White Mountain National Forest,” said Zack Porter, Executive Director of Standing Trees, which works to protect federal and state public lands across New England. “The Forest Service should be celebrating this unique and treasured landscape by managing it as a Scenic Area similar to Pinkham Notch or Mount Chocorua.”


“The Forest Service has been an absentee landlord for twenty years,” commented Elaine Faletra of Warren, New Hampshire, a regular visitor to the lake and a member of the Lake Tarleton Coalition. “Instead of collaborating with local stakeholders to develop this project and honor the community’s vision, the Forest Service seems determined to ignore our input.”


The objection details the cultural, historical, socioeconomic, recreation and ecological value of the surrounding forest. It asserts the Forest Service failed to demonstrate compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Administrative Procedure Act, federal guidance and recent Executive Orders. The objection asserts:

  • Public participation was consistently thwarted by delay, refusal and the cumbersome need to obtain supporting documents through the Freedom of Information Act. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, agencies must make genuine efforts to inform and involve the public in their procedures.

  • The Forest Service relied on outdated science as it relates to forest health, ignoring the remarkable forest ecosystems of the Northeast, and the unique potential of the White Mountain National Forest to contribute on the global scale to climate stabilization and resilience. Despite recent Executive Orders from President Biden that emphasize the importance of mature forest conservation, the Forest Service failed to consider the President’s direction.

  • The project’s logging activities threaten the endangered Northern Long-eared Bat, which has been documented throughout the White Mountain National Forest and is known to have occupied the forests surrounding Lake Tarleton.

The objection details a requested remedy: the implementation of activities which would improve recreation resources, protect water quality and vital habitat, and designate the land as a protected Scenic Area through a Forest Plan amendment — as the public intended when it rescued the land from development over 20 years ago. The Forest Service has 90 days to respond, with the discretion to extend the review time if necessary. The Forest Service must issue a written response to each objection it receives.


Spring 2023 Environmental Advocacy Clinic students, Isabella Pardales and Sarah Christopherson, authored the clinic’s objection.

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About Vermont Law and Graduate School: Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to a Law School that offers both residential and online hybrid JD programs and a Graduate School that offers master’s degrees and certificates in multiple disciplines, including programs offered by the School for the Environment, the Center for Justice Reform, and other graduate-level programs emphasizing the intersection of environmental justice, social justice and public policy. Both the Law and Graduate Schools strongly feature experiential clinical and field work learning. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Standing Trees is a grassroots membership organization that works to protect and restore New England’s forests, with a focus on state and federal public lands in Vermont and New Hampshire. Standing Trees members regularly visit and recreate throughout White Mountain National Forest, including the area impacted by the Tarleton IRP. This is the Clinic’s first public filing on behalf of its client, Standing Trees.

The Lake Tarleton Coalition is comprised of local business owners, scientists, frequent users of the White Mountain National Forest, and concerned citizens united for permanent protection of Lake Tarleton and surrounding lands in the White Mountain National Forest. Many of the Coalition’s members have been involved in efforts to protect Lake Tarleton for decades.

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