Mount Tecumseh Cutting, My Viewpoint

Stumps of trees illegally cut in 2013 are cut flush with the ground on the summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
July 2014, Fresh Cutting – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Mount Tecumseh Cutting, My Viewpoint – When I first went public with the environmental issues on Mount Tecumseh, I was warned that my business would become the focal point of a smear campaign if I continued to cover Mount Tecumseh. After five years of covering issues on this mountain, I can say that the harassment I have received has not deterred me from creating awareness for the human impact on Mount Tecumseh.

According to Forest Service, the cutting on New Hampshire's Mount Tecumseh is illegal, and is considered vandalism to National Forest land. As far as I know, Forest Service's law enforcement division is still actively investigating the cutting. For my involvement, as a photographer, I have been unofficially volunteering my time to document the cutting. I am against this type of vandalism, and report any findings to Forest Service.

July 2013 - View from Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Ongoing vandalism (tree cutting) has improved the view from the summit. Forest Service verified the cutting is illegal and unauthorized.
July 2013 – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Over the last few years, illegal cutting has improved the small viewpoint (above) on Mount Tecumseh. I started documenting issues on this mountain in 2011. And to the best I can recall, this is when I started noticing small amounts of cutting on the summit. At first, it was just a few trees cut here and there, but then a large section was cut away in 2013. Other areas of the summit also had been cut during this time frame. The cutting appears to have stopped for now, but this issue is part of a concerning trend happening here in the White Mountains.

August 2013 - Scenic view from the summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Ongoing vandalism (tree cutting) has improved the summit viewpoint. Forest Service has stated the cutting is illegal and unauthorized.
August 2013 – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

As an environmental photographer, I am concerned with the precedents this illegal cutting is creating. No one person has the right to decide if there should be a view from Mount Tecumseh. But for some reason, some people think they are entitled to leave their mark everywhere they go in the White Mountains. And this mindset is trashing the White Mountains. The cutting on Mount Tecumseh is part of this “trashing” trend.

September 2013 #1 - The summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Ongoing vandalism (illegal tree cutting) has improved the view from the summit. Pemi District of Forest Service verified the cutting is illegal and unauthorized.
September 2013 #1 – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

The higher elevations of the White Mountains are home to rare bird habitat. Mountain birdwatch results indicate that between 2000 and 2009 Bicknell's Thrush, an extremely rare species with very limited breeding grounds, was detected on Mount Tecumseh. So this illegal cutting could possibly be destroying bird habitat. Do you think the ones doing the cutting care about bird habitat?

September 2013 #2 - View of illegal tree cutting on Mt Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Unauthorized cutting of trees on National Forest land is considered vandalism, and it has become a problem on Mt Tecumseh. Forest Service has verified this cutting is unauthorized, and they are trying to determine who is doing it.
September 2013 #2 – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

From July 2013 – October 1, 2013 (see the above images) the summit was cut at least four different times. This information alone suggests that the person or persons doing the cutting frequently visits the summit. The ones who visit the summit regularly can be narrowed down to specific groups. And the claims of skiers doing the cutting seems to have no merit at this point. But can’t be fully ruled out.

Scenic view from the summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during winter months.
This View Came at a Price – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Don't get me wrong I love a great view just like everyone else, but this isn’t about the view. The issue here is that the cutting is illegal and goes against the ethics of conservation. In the conservation movement, the cutting on Mount Tecumseh is vandalism to National Forest land. And it is no different than graffiti painted on rocks or trash intentionally left on National Forest land. Whoever is doing the cutting has no respect for the environment.

July 2016 - A herd path on the summit of Mt Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This herd path, illegally cut between 2011-2013, leads to a viewpoint of the ski area. The impact it is having on the environment is evident in this image, and it continues to worsen.
Path on Summit (Cut between 2011-2013) – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

On one of my monthly visits to photograph the summit cutting, I met a hiker who said he knew who did some of the cutting. According to this hiker allegedly a Forest Service volunteer cut the path (above) and viewpoint on the ski side of the summit. If Forest Service determines any volunteers are involved with the cutting on Mount Tecumseh, they need to ban those volunteers from ever doing volunteer work again in the White Mountains.

January 2015 - Tree cutting on the summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire USA during winter months.
January 2015, New Cutting – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

There has been much talk lately as to how social media is impacting (both good and bad) outdoor recreation in the White Mountain National Forest. And in my own opinion, the cutting on Mount Tecumseh is being done for social recognition. If there were no social media outlets, none of this would be happening.

October 2016 - View from the summit of Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire on a rainy October day. Unauthorized cutting of trees over the last few years has improved this view.
October 2016, Sign on Summit – Mt Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Most environmental issues start off small and become bigger issues over time if nothing is done to stop them. And this is where we are at now with the illegal cutting on Mount Tecumseh. Forest Service has put a sign on the summit (above) that explains the legal ramifications if caught cutting trees on the summit. It seems to have worked for now. But I suspect the cutting will start again when the parties involved thinks it is safe to do so.

The vandalism on the summit is only a part of the issues on Mount Tecumseh. And even though I am no longer documenting the Tecumseh Trail, I may continue to cover the cutting. If you know who is cutting the summit, turn them into Forest Service's law enforcement division. Help end this “trashing” trend of the White Mountains.

You can license any of the above images for publications by clicking on the image you are interested in. And you can view a public timeline of the summit cutting here.

Happy image making..


 

This article is intended to create awareness for vandalism in the White Mountains. The information included here is based on communications with Forest Service, and five years of documenting issues on Mt Tecumseh.

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes mainly in the environment of New Hampshire. His work is published worldwide, and publication credits include the Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Backpacker Magazine, and The Wilderness Society. His blog articles are intended to create awareness for the environment and to promote his image archive.

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