ANNAPOLIS -- Despite protests by conservation groups, the Board of Public Works approved yesterday the harvesting of about 350 acres of trees from state-owned forests in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.
The timber sale involved a total of eight sites in Western Maryland's Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, Potomac-Garrett State Forest and Savage River State Forest in Garrett County, and one in the Wicomico Demonstration Forest in Wicomico County on the lower Eastern Shore.
Schaefer administration officials had backed the sales as necessary togood forestry management. In most cases, the forests have had gypsy moth infestations, and timber companies will primarily harvest oaks, favorites of gypsy moth caterpillars.
"The best way to take care of the gypsy moth problem is to eliminate oak and start fresh," said James W. Dunmyer, DNR assistant secretary for public land in the department of Natural Resources.
Conservation groups have argued, however, that timber sales harm the environment, disturbing birds that nest in forest interiors and denying wildlife food and shelter.
The DNR endorsed a total of nine timber sales last year compared with the 22 expected to be approved by July 1 this year. The sales approved yesterday will result in about 100 acres being clear-cut with the remaining sites harvested selectively.
"Why should we manage public lands so extensively for the benefit of just one industry?" demanded Ajax Eastman, a longtime environmental advocate.
DNR officials are formulating plans to provide greater public input on timber sales. In one of the sales approved yesterday, a timber company will wait until June 1 before cutting down trees so that a female black bear and her two cubs will not be disturbed.
Even conservationists admit the timber sales are unlikely to be ZTC stopped any time soon. The sales approved yesterday will raise about $340,000 at a time when the state and local governments are facing slumping tax revenues.