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Northern New Hampshire and Vermont are speckled with the name Bunnell: Bunnell Brook, Bunnell Notch, Bunnell Mountain — and Bunnell logging. The Bunnell name has been associated with working in the woods for at least four generations. Heath Bunnell, proprietor of HB Logging and son of well-known Monroe, N.H., logger Rocky Bunnell, is the fourth generation.
“We’ve always seemed to have been around here,” says Heath, who, unsurprisingly, grew up wanting to be a logger like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — well, a logger, and a fisherman in Alaska.
Right out of high school he bought his first skidder and began working with Rocky and independently. But the call of the cold, churning Alaskan sea was too much to resist, and in 1992 young Heath sold that skidder and went to the far north to try his hand at commercial fishing.
“I loved it, actually. It was incredibly hard work, but I loved it,” he says. But on a visit home in 1998, when he was trying to decide whether to buy a share of quota on the boat he had been working on, the ice storm of 1998 pummeled northern New England. There was a lot of salvage opportunities for loggers in New Hampshire. Despite pleas from his boat’s captain, Heath decided to stay in his home state (he grew up in Monroe) and bought another skidder.
“My dad didn’t really want to travel a lot, and southern Vermont after the ice storm was good territory for a cable skidder,” remembers Heath. “So that’s where I went.”
HB Logging today, with a crew of 12 employees, has diversified into excavation and trucking beyond logging. Two years ago HB bought a horizontal grinder, following that purchase with an excavator and grapple saw to work with the grinder. HB Logging also runs three skidders now, a feller-buncher, and delimber, in addition to other equipment. Heath will sometimes subcontract with other loggers when demand outpaces the capacity of his feller-buncher.
The range of jobs HB Logging will work is impressive, from clearing homesites to large clearing jobs for commercial projects. In May, HB will begin a clearing job at the airport in Bennington, Vt. Often, two or three jobs are occupying HB Logging at the same time, but they all share the hallmark of an HB Logging timber sale, says Heath, which is “professionalism. We’re fully insured, and we work hard to maintain our reputation. Virtually all our work comes to us through word of mouth; we don’t even have a website.” That reputation and professional approach to work has earned Heath not just a place in his family’s legacy as well as the respect of fellow loggers and colleagues in the industry, but also the 2019 Outstanding Logger Award from the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
Heath will also buy timber himself on occasion, and though HB Logging typically doesn’t do a lot of contract logging, the company has a relationship with Meadowsend Timber Co., where Heath works often with Meadowsend’s Jeremy Turner.
Mud season finds Heath, who has settled with his family – his wife Tricia and daughters Sofia and Zoe – in Kirby, Vt., about 20 miles north of Monroe, far away from the forests of northern New England. Every April he returns to a home he bought a few years ago in Moab, Utah, where he spends his time mountain-biking with friends. “I lived in Crested Butte, Colorado, for several years and did a lot of skiing and mountain biking there, and then we kind of gradually moved on to southern Utah. I finally pulled the trigger and bought a home out there so we’d have kind of a base of operations.” Heath is also an avid tracker and hunter.
Being honored as Outstanding Logger for 2019 is “definitely special to me, and I think it’s also special to my dad,” says Heath. Rocky Bunnell is also an Outstanding Logger honoree, in 2007. “This has been our family’s business for as long as I’ve been alive, and long before that. It’s a great business, and it’s great to have it in the family.”
House Bill 543 seeks to establish a 50-foot protective buffer adjacent to all wetlands and a 100-foot buffer adjacent to “high value wetlands.” “High value wetlands” is a proposed new category of wetland that is based on:
- Presence of natural heritage elements (rare, threatened, endangered species, or a species of interest);
- Within a tier 3 stream (drains 640 acres) floodplain;
- Forested wetland greater than five acres where more than 50 percent of the soil is very poorly drained; and
- Any wetland in a floodplain subject to flooded soils.
In both cases (50-foot and 100-foot buffers), the buffer is to be maintained in a “…natural condition, without any disturbance to or removal of vegetation…” In addition to removing large blocks of land from productive forest management (e.g., every 435.6 feet of buffer to a “high value wetland” removes one acre of land), the restrictions in this bill will make timber sale layout (especially if the property contains wetlands or a stream) extremely difficult and expensive.
Moreover, the New Hampshire Department or Environmental Services (NHDES) just concluded the public comment period on a five-year wetland rule rewrite. This bill would turn this rulemaking effort on its head, as it will dramatically expand NHDES’s wetland regulatory jurisdiction into upland areas.
At a public hearing in February on HB 543, some of the most compelling testimony came from the State Forester, who is concerned that this bill expands the NHDES’s jurisdictional reach into upland areas, which raises a host of questions (e.g., landowners having to hire wetland scientists to map wetlands on their property before conducting a timber harvest, impacts on existing basal area laws, and what additional costs will the state incur managing state-owned property).
We continue to ask NHTOA members to submit comments to the committee. Below is a brief description of the bill and instructions for sending emails to the committee. Please note that because some NHTOA members have had trouble with the committee-wide email address, you should include the chairwoman’s, vice-chairman’s, and clerk’s email address.
Here is the committee contact information and the talking points:
Address your email to:
Representative Suzanne Smith, Chairwoman
N.H. House of Representatives Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee
New Hampshire Legislative Office Building, Room 305
Concord, NH 03301
Send your email to:
In your email:
- Introduce yourself and company:
- Town where you own timberland in (include how many acres of land you own);
- Town your timber-related business is located in, and towns where you work;
- # employees (gross payroll figure would be good).
- Thank Chairwoman Smith and the members of the committee for the opportunity to comment on HB 543.
- Clearly state you oppose House Bill 543. 3.
Talking points for why you oppose HB 543:
- It will remove timberland from forest management (merchantable timber Red Maple, Spruce, and Eastern White Pine all can grow in what is technically defined wetland);
- HB 543 will increase the complexity of timber sale layout and planning (e.g., How can I cross wetland if I can’t “disturb the vegetation”?);
- The bill will impact sawmill saw log availability as timberland is removed from production and timber sales become more costly to operate;
- HB 543 fails to recognize the thousands of hours of public comment and staff time put into the NHDES’ five-year wetland rulemaking process; and
- HB 543 fails to recognize that NHDES already regulates upland areas adjacent to wetlands through the department’s Alteration of Terrain permitting process (the intent to cut form serves as the permit application for forest management projects).
Sullivan County seeks bids for wood chips to burn in its biomass heating facility located at the Sullivan County Complex in Unity, N.H. Annual wood chip volume is estimated at 2,000 tons (+/- 20%). The facility operates throughout the year with weather-influenced demand. Several types and sources of wood chips will be considered for heating fuel for the facility, including screened bole chips, straight bole chips, screened whole tree chips, and straight whole tree chips.
To read the full Request for Proposal, click here.
Stating that the six independent biomass energy plants in New Hampshire are at risk for continued operation as a result of foot-dragging by Eversource, a letter sent by several state senators and representatives urges the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to implement Senate Bill 365. The bill was passed last year by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and requires Eversource to purchase the energy output of the six biomass plants. A gubernatorial veto of SB 365 was overridden last fall by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
The letter states that "the law is clear -- Eversource is to select the proposals submitted to it by the biomass plants that conform to the law and submit them to the commission. This has not occurred and the continued operation of these facilities is at risk and the General Court's important public interest determinations remain unfulfilled."
The letter, which is addressed to Martin Honigberg, chairman of the PUC, and the members of the commission, adds: "The continued operation of these facilities depends on the expeditious implementation of SB 365. We urge you to take the action needed to implement that law and fulfill the General Court's public interest determination."
To read the full letter, click here.