Forum, Nov. 22: Racism Is Bad, but It’s Been Worse

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Racism Is Bad, but It Was Worse

I have been following the recent exchanges about the reality or unreality of systemic racism in America. There is, in my view, no doubt that such racism is very, very real. Have a look at gerrymandering, efforts to suppress minority voting, police behavior toward suspects (or plain citizens), and most disgracefully, the disparity between jail sentencing for non-whites as compared to whites.

But letters such as Sharon Racusin’s recent Forum letter are utterly counter-productive. “Has anything changed,” she asks, since the Jim Crow era? Well, yes. I am 74 and, with family ties in Georgia, I made many trips, some extended, to the deep South as a child and young man. Unlike those days, so far as I know, there is no rule demanding blacks sit at the back of the bus, use separate water fountains, find monoracial hotels.

I could go on. But one crucial change is this: Inexcusable as some police behavior (including murder) has been in recent times, the death toll is minuscule as against the number of people brazenly lynched in the Jim Crow era by people who were certain to be exonerated by racist judges,

Not least because I am a grandfather to biracial children, I say that we must keep holding the system to account and changing it. Hysterical claims, however, are not a worthy means of doing so.

Sydney Lea

Newbury, Vt.

Tucker Mountain Has Good Value

Recently an opponent of Newbury’s Tucker Mountain land purchase complained that current owners have logged the best timber from the property before putting it up for sale, leaving it decimated. A walk up the east end of Tucker Mountain Road can give someone this impression, but the two most heavily logged areas are not part of the property in question. They abut the land Newbury would purchase.

There has indeed been a significant harvest of timber over the past six years, in keeping with the owners’ approved Forest Management Plan.

Reading the forester’s timber inventories for the property and the opinion of the county forester presents a more optimistic view of this forest, now and over time.

There are two parcels in the land sale. Of the larger (493 acre) piece, Orange County Forester David Paganelli writes: “It is not unusual for a forest like this, that is carefully managed over the long term, to carry $1,000 to $2,000/acre in revenue in total timber value. This forest is capable of being in that range, but it needs time to get there.” He and forester Jeff Smith both point to a section of white pine that, within the decade, could produce between $25,000 and $50,000 with an aggressive sale.

Of the smaller 143-acre parcel, Smith writes that it “has a lot of red oak (that) could be harvested any time over the next five years or so.” The timber value of that parcel is confirmed by Paganelli, who estimates the revenue at $25,000. This piece of land supports a beautiful stand of forest throughout.

I have hiked, skied and otherwise explored Tucker Mountain for 35 years. It has scars. Heavy vehicle use on top has caused serious erosion that needs to be addressed. Logging has been aggressive at times. But Tucker is anything but decimated. The remote wetlands and beaver ponds, the brook and many acres of uncut forests are all there, along with managed forests with high potential for improvement.

As you vote, consider the opinions of the foresters who have walked and studied and managed the land.

Tom Kidder

West Newbury, Vt.

Forest Isn’t Worth It

I became suspicious of the plan to sell Newbury another town forest when I learned the sellers logged it off last year. That seems insincere.

The large majority of what the sellers say is a 635-acre parcel consists of saplings. The place is maybe one notch above a puckerbrush.

The proposed sale is a great deal for the sellers. They would receive $461,000 from the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund with Newbury being asked to contribute $25,000.

All that money is for a steep, stony mountainside that’s been heavily logged off, is already saddled by a conservation easement, and accessed by a washed out Class 4 town road.

For Newbury it’s a poor deal. The town would give up its right to tax the land forever. Presently that’s a loss of $3,600 per year.

Since it will take about 75 years for the trees to grow back to what they were, the real cost to Newbury for the “forest” is found by multiplying 75 years times $3,600, which is $270,000 plus the $25,000. That assumes no increase in the tax rate or assessment.

Although the land trust and the conservation fund are putting 18 times as much money as Newbury into the purchase price and would be the real owners of the place, the conservation easement requires Newbury to hold them harmless from any litigation or problems that arise. If there’s a bad accident, someone dumps hazardous waste there or a boundary dispute arises, only Newbury could be sued.

If you have a chance, go up Tucker Mountain before the Nov. 28 vote. Unless you walk, you’ll need a vehicle with high ground clearance and low-range four wheel drive. See if you think the place is worth the trouble and expense it could cause the town.

Take a look at the “forest.” It’s hard to believe the Vermont Land Trust could approve or condone the destruction that took place there and have the nerve to push it onto Newbury as a town forest.

Charles Calley

Newbury, Vt.