June 25, 2008


Through the years, the logging industry has played a major role. Below are four scenerios, from the Peru-Brazilian border; Sullivan, Maine; the Penobscot Million lands in Hancock/Washington counties, Massachusetts (Maine) in the 1790s, and Maine’s unorganized territory in 2008.


The amazing pictures were beamed around the globe: a handful of warriors from an ‘undiscovered tribe’ in the rainforest on the Brazilian-Peruvian border brandishing bows and arrows at the aircraft that photographed them. These photographs were published to make a political point, to perhaps reduce the tribe’s danger of their losing the habitat in which they have flourished for hundreds of years. The publicity from the photographs will hopefully lift the threat of logging to the tribe’s existance.

José Carlos Meirelles, 61, a sertanista (expert on indigenous tribes) working for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, Funai, took the photographs.

Survival International, the organisation that released the pictures, and Funai, which is dedicated to searching out remote tribes and protecting them, conceded that they’ve known about this nomadic tribe for around two decades. Former Funai president Sydney Possuelo agreed that the invasion of the tribe’s privacy was necessary to prove that ‘uncontacted,’ isolated, tribes still existing in the area, are endangered by the menace of the logging industry. Loggers, closing in on the Indians’ homeland, are threatening their isolation. Peru’s logging has sent many Indians fleeing into Brazil, according to Meirelles.

International media attention forced neighbouring Peru to re-examine its logging policy in the border area where the tribe lives. Funai has shut down 28 illegal sawmills in Acre state, where these tribes are located.

As yet, there is no logging on Brazillian side of the border.

Building paved roads also creates tree cutting. A new road is being paved from Peru into Acre, which will likely introduce hordes of poor settlers to the area. Other Amazon roads have led to 30 miles of rain forest being cut down on each side, according to scientists.


Sullivan, Maine, already has  “logging,” or “tree cutting,” regulations, to protect the value of its ocean-side properties. Thus, when William Badyna, of Brooklyn, clear-cut his 1.2 acre, heavily wooded seaside lot (legally owned by his wife, Angelique) on Flanders Bay he blamed it on a “misunderstanding” and the hiring of local workers who did not adhere to the local tree-removal ordinance. Sullivan’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance bans the cutting trees within 75 feet of the property’s shoreline (that is 250 feet) and limits tree removal beyond that 75-foot setback to 40 percent of the parcel’s area (including a house lot). Badyna publicly apologized and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and foot the bill for a tree-planting plan to be overseen by a forester.

However, the couple’s assets have since been frozen by the order of a New York Supreme Court. Badyna was among eight people arrested in July, 2003, and charged with running what was described at the time as “one of the largest prostitution rings in New York City.”

On March 4, 2008, Badyna pleaded guilty to the charge of money laundering in the second degree. He is facing a prison term that could range from 5 to 15 years. His wife will appear before Hancock County for a hearing re the damages owed to Sullivan. And the parcel in question is being marketed for $350,000, the same price paid by the Badynas in 2005. Other Oceanside lots are less expensive, but none has an unrestricted view of the sea.


On May 20, 1793, Madame Rosalie de la Val expressed concerns about the land she was hoping to purchase in Trenton (now Lamoine), Maine (part of the Penobscot Millions). Due to an extended delay in obtaining a land survey, she had “not yet been able to enforce her rights against those of the inhabitants who…waste her forests”— lumber thieves were pillaging her lands at will.

Madame’s problem with the pillaging was a major source of irritation to the Penobscot land proprietors in the 1790s. On February 6, 1793, William Bingham wrote to land agent Henry Jackson: great depredations have been committed in the course of the winter upon the Penobscot tract, by cutting immense quantities of timber, to which they are prompted by the high price of lumber.

Perhaps this was due to the most widely practiced occupation of east Maine settlers, lumbering. Maine had an abundance of was timber, in that era when wood was in high demand for fuel, houses and ships. According to land baron xxx Baring, “Wood for fires near the large towns is dearer than it was in France and Germany and from a total want of any system of preservation of forests, the country is daily exhausting.” In fact, lumber prices and its transport costs were controlled largely by Boston.

The particular wishes of the land proprietors was that the entire lumber resource on his land be preserved, because it increased the value of the land they hoped to sell. David Cobb, Bingham’s land agent, wrote “The people must certainly be convinced that it is high time that a stop should be put to their depredations upon lands not their own.”

He told Bingham that the loggers habits in cutting wood was “So strong…acquired by long usage, that they think it is depriving them of one of their dearest rights, to be prevented from cutting timber wherever they please, and to demand of them to pay for it, is an insult added to the injury. This opinion I have been combating ever since I came here.” Since their custom and habit was to “plunder” lumber, “if they are denied the priviledge of log cutting upon these lands, they would be reduced to the utmost distress.”  Thus, Cobb suggested that charity be used—that the proprietor could consent to giving a lumberman the privilege of cutting his land’s lumber on condition that the log cutting does not destroy a single tree that is fit for masts, that an eighth part of the boards that are cut from the logs are delivered to the proprietor, and that if any other timber is taken, the logger would pay the customary proportion of the country.

Bingham responded that the interest of every landowner was to cooperate in resisting the claims of the loggers, since no property can be secure without the right to the timber and the right to the soil.

“The people must certainly be convince’d that it is high time that a stop should be put to their depridations upon lands not their own,” Cobb wrote. By November 1795, he had the log stealing business “in part already placed in good order…by repeated visits and conversations to and with those who have had the greatest share in this kind of plunder.” Bingham was pleased that Cobb had been able “to combat with success the dangerous prepossessions of the inhabitants relative to the right of plundering timber. It is necessary to crush this practice in its bud; as the object is one of the most valuable resources of the country.”

However, the goal wasn’t reached without threats. Donald Ross, hired to deal with the trespassers, was occasionally threatened by loggers who thought it was a great grievance to pay anything for the lumber. One mill man told him “that I had better not attempt paying them another visit this winter in their camps as I might depend on meeting ill treatment and that binding me foot to a tree I might rely on.”

The matter of taking free logs was a principal topic of conversation at Union River until years later when John Black, land agent, seized all illegally-cut lumber on the landings. The trespassers were “pretty much brought…to reason” after losing a winter’s work.

The problem of loggers trespassing persisted. On November 19, 1799, Ross wrote to Cobb: “On the lower part of Trenton here has been a very open and barefaced trespass, committed this last week on your lands by John Gilpatrick and a certain Berry. They hauled 100 logs, and I think ought to be made an example of, either by law or making them settle at a higher (rate) than the others, as they now can have no colour of excuse.” Later he wrote that he had “called on Gilpatrick and Berry and took their obligation for $17.50 payable in six weeks.”


Some Maine citizens oppose developing the state’s unorganized territory, some of which the Massachusetts government and land proprietors in the 1790s so anxiously speculated on settling. Other Maine citizens are anxious to get on with progress.

The current debate is between entity Plum Creek Timber Co. and timberland owners. Plum Creek Timber Co. proposes rezoning 20,000 acres around Moosehead Lake, to create the largest subdivision ever proposed for the North Woods. It includes at least 975 homes and two resorts.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine recognizes the development pressures in this territory, but advocates controlling these pressures. The council is a powerful environmental group.

Maine’s ten million acres of unorganized territory serves as the “wood basket” for Maine’s pulp, paper and timber industry. It stretches over half the state, encompassing what people refer to as the North Woods and wildlands of Maine and touching twelve different counties, but is largely contained in eight—Aroostook, Penobscot, Somerset, Piscataquis, Washington, Franklin, Oxford and Hancock. According to Diano Circo, the council’s North Woods policy advocate, “It is the last, largely undeveloped forest in the Eastern United States.”

Meanwhile, the Land Use Regulation Commission, or LURC for short, recently began a formal public review of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan, a review the law requires to be updated every ten years. Its most talked about exemption, which landowners say the plan appears to want to modify, if not to eliminate, is the so-called two-in-five rule—a statewide statute allowing landowners to split off one lot from an existing parcel once every five years, thus creating two lots over five years time. This rule allows building lots to be created without subdivision review.

Today’s lumbering and tree cutting problems are a continuation of the lumbering problems through the ages, tied in with the economic value of lumber. Currently, lumber prices have increased due to a spurt of homebuilding, the need for lumber to rebuild the damage done in the mid-East, and the increasing energy costs.

As long as lumber holds this value, there will be plunderers, and forests will be cut down, often irresponsibly.


1 Comment »

  1. Hi Scott,

    Excellent question !

    Beech is used in frames found in East Coast America though the variety employed is slightly different from our own common domestic species. I suspect the reason that beech is rarely to be found used as structural timbers here in the UK is probably due to durability and bug damage considerations. There is really no good reason why beech could not be used more in house construction especially since it is very hard, takes stain and polishes well so it could make excellent hardwood floors.

    It is possible that beech’s previous historic use to make furniture and treen might have made it uneconomic to be considered for use in house construction. That would certainly not be the case today.


    Ken Hume

    Comment by Geza — November 15, 2010 @ 5:42 am | Reply

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