The Waitsfield Conservation Commission has proposed an amendment to the town’s Scrag Forest Management Plan to allow maple sugaring in the forest.
That amendment was forwarded to the Waitsfield Select Board, which will review it at the board’s September 12 meeting. The conservation commission, at its August 31 meeting, finalized the proposed amendment for the select board.
The conservation commission proposed the amendment because it and the select board received a request from Dave Gavett to sugar in the town forest. Gavett already sugars on land that abuts the town forest. Heretofore, Waitsfield has not allowed any commercial activities in the town forest, other than logging as part of a forest management plan.
The proposed amendment changes a current management goal to read, “Practice sustainable forestry and other carefully managed activities such as maple sugaring that generates forest products and/or revenue for the benefit of the Waitsfield community.”
The amendment includes a new section defining maple sugaring and spelling out where and how it will occur, specifically confining it to the lower and more westerly portions of the forest.
Gavett would like to lease taps in the area of Scrag Forest that was logged last winter. He currently has a 5,000-tap sugaring operation on land that adjoins Scrag Forest. He would like to expand his sugaring operation by another 4,500 to 5,000 taps. He proposed paying $1.40 per tap for the first five years of a 15-year contract. The tap price would be adjusted in five-year intervals using the same formula that the state uses. The contract he proposed is similar to that which the state uses when it leases state lands to sugarmakers.
Gavett discussed his request with the Waitsfield Select Board on August 8 and the board discussed it again on August 22, asking the conservation commission to make its recommendation first.
When Gavett spoke to the conservation commission about his proposal, he said that he would avoid setting lines near any trails and that lines would be high enough for those walking off-trail to pass under (except for in deep-snow years).
He told the boards that his intention is to improve the logging roads in order to provide easier access and that these improvements may help with future logging operations or possibly any trail creation in the area, although that section of the forest is not currently accessed by many people.
Gavett hopes to begin setting the taps in September. Both the conservation commission and the select board expect to have an answer for him by September 12.