Timmmm----berrrr: The unease of logging above one's head
With rocks already starting to slide down terrain so steep it's easier to climb than walk, a man who survived mountain-ripping Hurricane Camille 40 years ago now worries that a neighbor's logging project could do what Camille couldn't: bring the surface of Dudley Mountain crashing down through his home.
"When I see this," he says gesturing to the logged property above him, "I get irked."
Maupin says he's worried–- especially with hurricane season here–- that a severe rain could cause cause the felled forest above him to liquefy, as happened in Nelson County during the 1969 mega-storm that killed 126 people.
And Maupin's further irked at what he calls a "lackadasical" attitude by the county and the forestry department in enforcing laws about logging and land clearing, and he says that it took him numerous attempts to reach anyone.
"I'm all about sustainable, low-impact timber," says Maupin, who climbs up Dudley Mountain like a mountain goat. "Certain areas need to be hands off– like the Priest during Camille."
When Camille hit Nelson 40 years ago with more than 25 inches of rain in mere hours, survivors learned how soil liquefaction can take everything in its path.
"We were lucky the mountain didn't come down on us," says Maupin, who survived that record-breaking rainfall on Dudley Mountain. However, with the land above him now denuded by the logging project that began over the summer, he worries that another big rainfall could mean disaster.
"I steward my land," says Maupin, who uses his 13-acres on the mountain's west side for his landscape gardening business and as a source of tulip poplar and red bud saplings and ferns, and he points to boulders that he says have rolled onto his property since the logging began.
"I really don't know what he's talking about," counters T.E. Wood, who owns a number of properties throughout Albemarle County including the site above Maupin. "I don't see any problem," says Wood, "I've cut on it before."
Plus, says Wood, the Virginia Department of Forestry approved the logging, and the company doing the cutting, Augusta County-based Harris Logging, has been in the business for a long time and knew what they were doing.
Logger Dickie Harris disputes Maupin's characterization of the rocks as boulders. "It's just a couple of little rocks," says Harris. "He's blown it out of proportion."
The logger says he's put in water breaks that have been checked by the Forestry department. "They have been there and said everything is fine," Harris contends.
Rodney Newlin is the water quality engineer with the Virginia Department of Forestry, which regulates logging.
"I don't know if I'd say it's approved," he says of the top 'o Dudley Mountain logging. "If everything was fine, we wouldn't have been out there."
In 1993, Virginia passed a law to protect streams from sedimentation during logging, especially on steep slopes, Newlin explains. A logger is required to notify the forestry department within three days of starting the chainsaws, and a department rep will be out there within 30 days.
He throws out terms like "silvicultural" and "BMP" and says the Department of Forestry makes recommendations about best management practices when hacking down trees.
"We don't like roads on more than a 25 percent grade," says Newlin. "That's pretty steep."
He's recommended water bars– dirt piled into mounds to slow water flow– and seeding and mulching on Wood's property. "It's pretty steep back there," says Newlin. "If we eventually get a big storm, all bets are off."
That won't necessarily help Maupin down the mountain sleep better at night.
"We are going to keep a close eye on that one," says Newlin. "If I lived in that house, I'd be concerned. But now that the road-building is done, it should be better."