Letters to the Editor

Why I have to clear-cut a part of the P.H. Craig forest tract in Chapel Hill

P.H. Craig’s plans to remove old pine trees from a portion of his 77-acre forest in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have raised concerns among some people who like to hike and mountain bike there.
P.H. Craig’s plans to remove old pine trees from a portion of his 77-acre forest in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have raised concerns among some people who like to hike and mountain bike there. File photo

I have received many many kind remarks and thanks about my land, and I am grateful. I must explain why I am clear cutting parts of my beautiful 77-acre forest that I have never touched in 50 years.

First, there are no 90-year-old unmanaged or managed stands of pines within 50 miles of here. And there is good reason. Such a stand is a liability for two reasons. Pine beetles love old unmanaged pines, and forest fire dangers are much greater on older pine. In this case there is jeopardy to the adjoining tracts with houses built a few feet from my property line.

Fortunately most of my pines are in two “thicket type growths.” That’s why I am clear cutting these thickets. Some other cutting will be collateral damage to hardwood to get to the pine thickets.

Some other cutting is where there will probably one day be future development on top of the hill near Seawell School Road.

Why I am not select cutting:

One does not select cut 90-year-old pine trees, which means leaving an occasional old pine among pine seedlings.That old tree has the same propensity to attract pine beetles.

I ask you to examine Duke Forest; they select cut; the oldest tree standing among the younger pine plantings is probably no more than 20 years old.

I am intimate with Duke Forest, my old homeplace adjoins Duke Forest on two sides and I used it as a playground when I was growing up in Hillsborough..

I now live very close to Duke Forest on Whitfield Road and have observed their management style for years

If I did select cut, because of the topography, and no access, removing that pine beetle infested tree would be impractical to say the least. That would mean the destruction of many young pine to get to the old diseased pine.

I would have no way, and I have no idea how I could get anyone else in there to remove them.

There are no mules, no skidders or loaders any more, only giant equipment that is used for harvesting trees.

It would be prohibitively expensive, if not nearly impossible for an individual to get several scattered pines out.

And just cutting down a pine-beetle-infested tree is not enough; it should be removed. It is worthless, like a pile of sawdust. And when pine beetles spread to them, a tree service will charge hundreds or thousands to remove even a few from your lot. Such a tree service could not get anywhere close to the Craig trees because of the topography and lack of access.

In addition, I would surmise there has never been anyone in the whole state to do something as foolish as select cutting 90 year old pine trees.

I believe any accredited state forester would agree with the above.

I have two state foresters and one paid professional forester giving me advice on this. In addition I consider myself a pretty good woodsman and experienced chain-saw operator, since doing it since my teenage days.

I once bragged that I could drop a tree on a dime and I could cut a perfect notch in a tree with an ax.

I hope this adequately explains why I have to clear cut portions of the most beautiful tract of land in Orange County.

It hurts, but it’s the right thing to do.

P.H. Craig lives in Orange County.

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