Waitsfield Conservation Commission members tour Scrag Mountain.

Members of the Waitsfield Conservation Commission took a tour of the timber harvest area in Scrag Mountain Municipal Forest earlier this month. The May 4 tour was guided by the forester in charge, Dan Singleton, Washington County Forester. He is responsible for contract compliance and harvest supervision during the timber sale operation.

The commission was also joined by Steve Hagenbuch of the Vermont Audubon Society, who provided insight and comments on bird habitat features associated with both the timber sale area and the larger landscape. This visit was a chance for members of the conservation commission to gain a visual understanding of the actual work on the ground associated with the timber harvest contract.

The harvest contract period is drawing to a close and there is still work to be done by the contractor, A. Johnson Company of Bristol. The remaining work includes cleanup of some of the areas surrounding stream crossings, smoothing some of the main skid roads and installing final water diversion structures (water bars) in order to stabilize the access roads and prevent erosion for the long term. Soils and trail surfaces are still soft and fragile, as is common after a winter harvest and associated freeze-thaw cycles.

The remaining contract work is scheduled to be completed by the end of June. Once the final work is done, Hagenbuch will report back to the commission and will make further recommendations regarding public access to the forest. Resource protection concerns are the main reasons for the temporary closure of the property. Trails will need to stabilize throughout the summer months with minimal traffic in order to be protected from erosion over the long term.

The Waitsfield Conservation Commission reminds Valley residents and visitors that the forest is scheduled to be closed through December 15, 2016. This closure protocol is based on that used by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation on its harvest projects.

The conservation commission asks that members of the public refrain from accessing the land until the level of stabilization is appropriate to allow general public access. Once the commission and the forester in charge are comfortable that public access is appropriate, the signs will be lifted and notice will be given. In the meantime, the commission is making plans to capitalize on the educational opportunities afforded by this harvest activity. The commission feels strongly that there is a great opportunity to showcase working forestland and the associated benefits of forestland management on the community.

For more information about this or other projects the commission is working on, contact commission chair Phil Huffman at 496-3490 or vice chair Chris Loomis at 496-4962.