The Vermont Legislature created the state's heavy-cutting law in 1997 to limit clearcutting and promote sustainable forestry practices. The law requires anyone intending to heavy-cut more than 40 acres (or more than 80 acres within 2 miles) to file a Notice of Intent to Cut application with the Department of Forests and Parks. Applications get filed in the Department's district offices, where members of the Forestry Division review them for appropriate standards, including how the applicant intends to cut the stand, how many trees of what size are targeted for removal, and other prescriptions. Staff may also visit the site to gain firsthand knowledge about the proposed cut.

In the first two years of the law, the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation's district offices received a total of 234 Notice of Intent to Cut applications involving 39,012 acres, which represents eight-tenths of 1 percent of the total forested land in Vermont. The average proposed harvest size was 167 acres.

Of these, 130 applications (55 percent) involving 16,648 acres were for harvesting in the Northeast Kingdom District. At the other end of the scale, the Champlain Valley District had only five applications involving 3,353 acres, and the Taconic District received 18 applications involving 2,478 acres.

Thirty-five (15 percent) of the applications required the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Cut permit, and there have been only two denials although in several instances applications were amended to meet the standards. The remaining 85 percent were filed under one of the exempt categories, which include agricultural clearing, Ice Storm salvage, use value appraisal, and Act 250 permit applications. Nine applications were also filed for information only. More than one-third (38 percent) of the total number of applications were filed as a result of the Ice Storm of 1998.

Forestry personnel have responded to more than 425 requests for technical assistance related to the heavy-cutting law. These requests included helping landowners determine whether a notice of intent application needed to be filed, providing a better understanding of the U.S. Forest Service's definition of the C line, field visits, and general assistance in the application process.

More than 300 loggers and foresters have received formal training related to heavy cutting sponsored by the Department. This number does not include individuals who have received training through the Professional Loggers Program sponsored by the Vermont Forest Products Association and the Logger Education to Advance Professionalism program.

Continued Recovery from the Ice Storm

The Agency of Natural Resources, through its Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, worked with landowners, foresters, loggers, and municipalities in 2000 as nearly 1 million acres of Vermont woodlands continued recovering from the Ice Storm of 1998. Among the actions taken during the past year:

  • The Agency completed grants to 18 communities totaling $833,000 for planning, planting, and maintenance of urban trees destroyed or damaged by the Ice Storm. This part of the recovery program is now complete.
  • The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation funded 30 workshops or training sessions on crop tree management, chainsaw safety, first aid, and tree investment, all with special emphasis on working in stands harmed by the Ice Storm. Approximately 450 landowners, foresters, and loggers attended these sessions.
  • The Agency continued long-term monitoring of recovering forests at eight research sites. Monitoring included analysis of maple sap production, vegetation response, insect populations, fungal diseases, and bird populations.

The Ice Storm of January 1998 damaged 940,000 acres of forestland and scattered trees and broken limbs on city streets, rural back roads, and recreation trails across several counties. The devastation was tremendous in some wood lots.

Fortunately, Vermont's forests are resilient. Within a few years, forests hammered by the thick coating of ice will regenerate, erasing most evidence of the storm. As time passes, we'll come to appreciate how such events are part of the forest ecosystem.

Forest Damage in 2000

While forests continued recovering from the Ice Storm during 2000, the past year produced the second wettest spring on record in Vermont, which led to other problems in our state's woodlands.

The cool, wet weather provided ideal conditions for microscopic fungi to begin growth and cause infections on a number of tree species. As the new, succulent leaf tissue emerged, it was susceptible to infection, giving rise to many leaf diseases. These fungal diseases resulted in a range of foliar symptoms. Spotting of foliage occurred on many tree species, while other trees showed large areas of discoloration on foliage and lost their leaves earlier than usual.

Tree species particularly affected by foliar diseases in 2000 included apple, sycamore, oak, ash, beech, birch, and hophornbeam. Trees in urban settings as well as the forest were affected by these foliar fungi.

Although foliage diseases can be quite alarming in appearance, healthy trees can withstand this discoloration and defoliation with no overall effect on tree health.