Forester Testifies About Replacement Trees at Geryville Quarry

LOWER MILFORD – A professional forester who inventoried timber at the Geryville Materials quarry site duked it out with township legal counsel during testimony here Tuesday night.

A timber inventory is the professional term used for when foresters count the number, size, and type of trees in a certain area.  Jeffrey Gossert, a 28-year veteran forester from York, was hired to do an inventory for several hundred acres of the Geryville site in 2006.  After consulting the township’s zoning ordinance, which describes the size and number of trees that must be used to replace older trees which have been cut down, Gossert calculated the replacement trees that would be required at the quarry site.

Forester Jeffrey Gossert testified on timber at the proposed Geryville Materials quarry during the curative amendment hearing at the Township Municipal Building Tuesday night. Photo by Judd Wilson, Southern Lehigh Tribune.

Following a dry, belabored introduction to his testimony during which Geryville lawyer Paul Ober walked the witness through his maps, facts, and figures, township attorney John Embick cross-examined Gossert about the way he did his inventory and how he came to his conclusions.  After haranguing Gossert on whether or not he “interpreted” the zoning ordinance in order to do his work, Embick intimated that the witness ought to have contacted the township prior to conducting the timber inventory.  While Gossert did testify that he customarily consults with local government before harvesting timber, he dismissed as unnecessary the idea of contacting government officials prior to counting trees on private property. 

With Ober and attorney Linus Fenicle occasionally intervening to act as referees, the abrasive, humorous counselor for the township and the quiet, folksy forester clashed for over an hour.  In addition to questions of interpretation and whether or not he should have contacted the township prior to his inventory, Embick grilled Gossert about the methods used in conducting the count.  Gossert explained that there are many methods, and even software programs, available for timber inventories.  He used one method to do his inventory and then another method to double-check his findings.  The backup method Gossert used to check his findings consisted of physically marking off one-fifth acre-sized areas, and counting the trees by hand.  Gossert sampled 88 areas during his inventory, far exceeding the 56 required by professional forestry protocols. 

Interestingly, while Gossert precisely calculated the legally-mandated replacement trees by size and species, which will number in the tens of thousands, Gossert told the Tribune he did not know which areas of the quarry site would get the new trees.  Whether large swaths of the site would remain permanently barren is unknown.

When 10 o’clock came, Fenicle called the dueling match a draw until the next curative amendment hearing, which is scheduled to be held here on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.  Gossert is scheduled to resume his testimony at that time.    

Supervisors William Roy and Donna Wright attended the hearing.  Supervisor Michael Snovitch was excused while on vacation.  Geryville Materials has filed a motion to have Snovitch disqualified from his position on the board.  He may respond to the motion at next month’s meeting, and Embick suggested that the township may also respond to the motion.

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