Milford’s Board of Selectmen, led by chairman Mark Fougere, has made another terrible decision by selling 10 acres of rare and valuable Appalachian oak-pine forest for a paltry $1,658 (after paying timber tax and forester’s fee). The townspeople of Milford need to know what natural resources they are trading for such a poor financial return.
Why did the BOS do this? To make way for a commercial gravel operation on the town’s Brox Community Lands – an ill-conceived project that was rejected twice by Milford voters but passed on the third try, aggressively pushed by a BOS that handed out phony money as an incentive to citizens as they went in to vote – a symbolic act not lost on this writer.
The BOS billed the gravel operation Warrant Article as a no-cost /large-profit endeavor that has, in reality, been anything but. Beyond unauthorized monies already spent, the BOS recently paid out $11,275 on steel plates to reinforce the haul route; agreed to pay $12,200 to the state for a wildlife study; and spent $1,035 on silt fencing. And then they sold 10 acres of valuable timber for a mere $1,658. In private industry, a $1,600 return on a $24,500 expenditure would represent dismal financial performance. Taking money from other accounts in the town’s budget to pay for this boondoggle doesn’t justify their trumpery and negligence of fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.
And these are not just ordinary trees I am talking about. The NH Wildlife Action Plan identifies Appalachian oak-pine forests as a “relatively rare” natural resource that requires protection from human development, because it provides valuable habitat for wildlife such as the bald eagle, black bear, ribbon snake, ruffed grouse, white-tailed deer, wild turkey and state-threatened and endangered species such as Blanding’s turtle and Hognose snake – all of which have been sighted on the town’s Brox Community Lands.
Yet in direct opposition to the NHWAP Stewardship Guidelines for Appalachian oak-pine forests, Milford’s BOS clearcut 10 acres for a fistful of dollars. The true value of these trees is found as habitat for wildlife and as recreational forested landscape. They have lousy value as hardwood pulp ($2 a ton) and firewood ($5 per cord).
In March 2018, Mark Fougere and Gary Daniels will be up for re-election. Given their uncaring behavior regarding the protection of state-threatened and endangered species and gross negligence of their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Milford, it would be a mistake to give them three more years as selectmen. Better still is to pass a Warrant Article to rescind their 20-year authority to damage other natural treasures around Heron Pond.