by Zack Porter
Last fall I stood on the shore of spectacular Lake Tarleton, gazing out at a snow-capped Mt. Moosilauke, trying to reconcile what I was hearing from the White Mountain National Forest with the incredible story of courage, community engagement, and perseverance that protected the lake from logging and development in the year 2000. I was at Camp Kingswood, a long-running summer camp on the western shore of the lake, to hear a presentation from White Mountain National Forest staff about their proposed Tarleton Integrated Resource Project.
The proposal was jaw dropping: 900 acres of clearcutting and other "even-aged" management from within a short distance of the lakeshore to within a stone's throw of the Appalachian Trail. How could this be possible in a landscape where $7.5 million had been raised, only two decades ago, to prevent logging in the forests surrounding the lake? The public had entrusted the White Mountain National Forest with stewardship of this iconic landscape. That trust was broken.
As the meeting progressed, tension in the camp's function room escalated. Community members from the surrounding area had gathered indoors on this frigid fall day - at the risk of contracting covid -- to give the White Mountain National Forest another chance. Forest staff attempted to explain how clearcuts would be hard to notice. For a community that had sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears to prevent just such an assault from ever happening, this explanation was difficult to stomach. No amount of rationalization was going to compensate for broken promises.
It was clear that the White Mountain National Forest was unaware of the history of Lake Tarleton; that there had not been any significant attempt to reach out to essential stakeholders in developing logging plans; and that their required analysis of a range of options (known as "alternatives" in the parlance of the National Environmental Policy Act) was nonexistent -- indeed, they failed to consider more than a single option in their Environmental Assessment. A single option analysis isn't an analysis. It's a forgone conclusion. This is illegal.
Approval of the Tarleton Integrated Resource Project seemed imminent, but due to public outcry (thanks to people like you!) and glaring errors in their Environmental Assessment, implementation was delayed last December. The White Mountain National Forest is giving the public another opportunity, through May 11th, to weigh in on their Revised Environmental Assessment.
Over the past winter, the White Mountain National Forest received letters from more than 1,200 citizens opposed to their logging plans and requesting a new analysis. Instead of listening to public concerns and proposing reasonable alternatives, the White Mountain National Forest's revised proposal, released in early April, is little changed from the original, threatening water quality, endangering wildlife, and putting valuable archaeological resources at risk.
Standing Trees is working closely with the Lake Tarleton Coalition to dramatically curtail or stop the Tarleton Integrated Resource Project from moving forward. The Coalition's goal is simple: put Lake Tarleton on a path to permanent protection as was promised when the White Mountain National Forest acquired the land in 2000. Forest leadership can amend the 2005 Forest Plan at any time to establish a Lake Tarleton-Webster Slide Scenic Area, a fitting designation for this treasured landscape. To this date, no Scenic Areas have been designated in the western White Mountain National Forest. Lake Tarleton should be the first.
Standing Trees won't stop until there is justice for the forests of Lake Tarleton, and for the community that rallied to save this special place just a short time ago.
Zack Porter is Executive Director of Standing Trees