The Department of Conservation and Recreation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is once again planning several cutting projects. Although the process allows for “public comment,” this is just going-through-the-motions. Based on past history, DCR has no intention of allowing public or scientific feedback to influence their plan. Take, for instance, the Wendell State Forest, where DCR allowed a private logging company to totally decimate a mid-age, beautifully diverse forest of the exact composition we need, despite concerted and heroic efforts by citizens who jumped every hoop to communicate the absolute necessity of keeping our forests intact and allowing the trees in them to grow old.
We need to keep alive as many big old trees as possible because the oldest, largest trees sequester the most carbon. The reason that we need to preserve and increase the age and density of the forest in Massachusetts is because forests across the United States and around the world are in far worse shape! What this means is that our forest, this remnant of what used to be a massive woodlands covering the entire northeastern United States, has to pick up the slack for the atmosphere. In other words, Massachusetts’ forests are an ecosystem service for our entire state, all of the country and the entire globe.
The language that DCR uses to justify the need for logging is euphemistic at best. For instance, they say they want to salvage trees that are diseased or over-run with insect pests. However, trees that succumb to natural forces (illness and old age) are part of the cycle of nature’s patterns of restoration. So-called “declining” tree species contribute through decomposition, ensuring the renewal of healthy ecosystems. Invasive pests may periodically be a concern but that is a special case which should have very tight controls, not an annual reason for taking out healthy trees in the beginning or middle of their life expectancy. Likewise any efforts that supposedly improve recreational experiences ought to be restricted to minor maintenance of existing trails and parks, not an excuse or rationale to justify cutting down more trees than absolutely necessary for the safety of hikers and skiers, whether they be tourists or locals.
DCR says it wants to improve forest resiliency. That’s just baloney, people. So is something they call energetic regeneration. This is the hype machine, an extension of fake news, classic examples of management by euphemism.
At worst, the reasons are blatantly profit-motivated, such as to “control” the growth of species of trees that they can’t harvest and sell. DCR presents the case that whatever trees are left will be adequate for sequestration, purposely downplaying the role of our forests in drawing down emissions (see this Open Letter on Proforestation, to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs).
The bottom-line is that DCR is trying to do business-as-usual, using an outmoded, cookie-cutter rationale that slaps convenient language onto practices that are detrimental to the welfare of the Commonwealth. There no doubt are skills and talents that foresters can bring to improving the robustness of our forest. DCR, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the rest of the administration must start listening to and following the advice of those who are showing us the way out of this mess, rather than protecting vested interests by following established habits that no longer serve the best interests of Massachusetts.