Can We Heat Vermont With Irene’s Riverbank Trees?
That’s a lot of wood.
Recently my family moved to Bethel, VT. It’s been great. We have been enjoying weekends that are a mix of hardware stores, garage sales and manual labor on our little plot of land. Every day we travel along routes 12 and 107 and are reminded of what went on just months ago during TS Irene along the White River and others. We previously lived in the Mad River Valley which saw similar impact.
The major river valleys in all directions are generally in states of disrepair along the banks. Debris is strewn across meadows, stuck in the muck and generally not where it’s been for decades. The material varies from refrigerators, to pieces of houses, to trees. Lots and lots of trees. Most of the trees seem to be otherwise great candidates to be made into firewood. Of course there are issues with accessing much of the fallen and redistributed lumber, but a significant percentage is ripe for the taking by the many Vermonters who own light equipment and have some elbow grease to spare.
Piecing and removing much of this lumber would serve a few purposes. It would begin the process of making these waterways appear as they did pre Irene, and it could also supply the state with significant firewood. Could/should every log be harvested? Absolutely not. But imagine if 50% was. It might also restore swimming holes and renew fishing access points.
There would of course need to be rules in place about harvesting only reasonably accessible trees, but there are many of those. Since Irene I have traveled the Route 100, 2, 12, 107, 4, 14, 9 and Massachusetts Route 2 corridors. All have hundreds of trees that are no longer in the ground, but rather laying on recently expanded and accesible shorelines. Most have only a couple of years to be viable candidates for firewood cutting, before decay takes its toll.
Photo Credits: Mountain Wanderer Map and Bookstore
How would this be undertaken? Who has jurisdiction if anyone? Could it simply be decreed as legal? Would there need to be a permitting process and specific access points granted? Would the state do it themselves then sell the wood at a subsidized level? I have no idea. I just think it could work, somehow. It would help to kick off the riverbank cleanup process by removing the largest items first and it could also heat a lot of homes next winter. My woodstove would feel proud knowing it was heating with wood that mother nature cut down.
I’m not a biologist. I’m not an arborist. Maybe one can chime in. I invite reasons on why this is ridiculous. It might very well be. But in my town alone, there are hundreds of trees just sitting there, still harvestable (not decayed yet meaning good heating wood), and many are accessible by existing road. This is not something that would be ecologically sound under normal circumstances as trees fall and should decay in that spot. Are these normal circumstances? I’m not sure.
Maybe this process is already underway and I have not heard about it.
Or maybe this is just nuts.