Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 24, 2012

Neighbors worry trees felled too freely


TRAVERSE CITY — Bruce Bequette gets frustrated when he looks at all the empty spaces where trees used to be.

The state land near his home on Rennie Lake outside of Traverse City was once thick with pine and oak, but Bequette said trees are being harvested at a rate he finds alarming. Bequette questions why the state has allowed contractors to take so much wood from the forests surrounding his home, and why some stands were cut right up to the road.

"They decimated the woods," Bequette said. "There's nothing left."

Bequette's neighbors, Bob and Connie Sherrer, share similar concerns. The couple invested a significant amount of money building their home in the Rennie Lake area. They said the volume of woods harvested near Rennie Lake, Ranch Rudolph and along Hobbs Highway seems a bit much.

"What I've come to observe since I've been here — I'm going to call it clear cutting, because it is that," Bob Sherrer said. "Some of it has been studiously done, but this year? My word."

The concerns illustrate what state foresters say is a constant challenge: balancing the need to properly manage forests for the long-term, while navigating around residential lots lining state land. DNR foresters said the harvesting near Rennie Lake is necessary to ensure a healthy forest for decades to come, and that they are doing their best to find balance given the area's continued growth.

"These are good decisions that are well thought out," said Bill Sterrett, district supervisor with the forest resource division of the DNR. "The state land base has really not changed ... what's really changed is where people are living."

One goal, the foresters said, is to manage for a diverse and healthy mix of trees. Many of those being harvested are very old; if they aren't removed, Mother Nature will take much longer to regenerate the forests, they contend. Reducing the chance of fire is another motivation, as is maintaining the land at its most original state. The area surrounding Rennie Lake was originally 25 percent open space.

"It's hard not to be in someone's backyard," said DNR forester Patrick Ruppen, who added that he's doing the best he can to maintain wooded views. "What we are doing is not eliminating forestland.

"We are restarting."

State parcels are inventoried every 10 years and harvesting plans are the subject of public meetings and public bidding, although the DNR said those meetings are often sparsely attended. Foresters said it's not true that the state is just trying to make money off the wood.

Bequette understands the need to manage the forests. His just questions why there has to be so much cutting in one spot, and why up to the road. And he said he still hasn't received a satisfactory response from his elected officials or the DNR.

"This is a populated area," Bequette said, adding, "it will never grow back in my lifetime."