Over 1000 acres of Massachusetts’ Forest to be cut by DCR in 2020

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.

Logging in Massachusetts. Photo credit: https://www.restore.org/save-wendell-state-forest

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.

4 thoughts on “Over 1000 acres of Massachusetts’ Forest to be cut by DCR in 2020”

  1. I’m sorry but your analysis is based on emotion and opinion rather than science and long-established professional practices. Lack of forest management in a populous state like Massachusetts destroys biodiversity, eliminates wildlife habitat, allows for invasive and non-native species to thrive, and creates unsafe conditions that can lead to uncontrolled wildfires. I won’t even get into the implications of the “leave it alone” mentality have on local economies, but we can start with unemployment, business bankruptcy, and depriving lower income families of inexpensive heating alternatives (firewood) that are not based on foreign oil.

  2. Hi John,

    Your argument is just as emotional as mine, as shown in the local economy angle of your argument which plays to fear and assumes humans are not creative enough to create alternatives. It seems you would rather maintain an exploitative system that allows people to suffer and die than exert pressure on the political system to change laws and invent new ways of taking care of each other.

    At this moment, when unemployment and bankruptcy are the game of the day due to a purposely inadequate response to the coronavirus, we are better positioned than ever to convert an economy that damages the environment and treats individual humans as mere replaceable parts with an economy that actually sustains everyone. It is not an impossible task, it is just a different direction than the one we’ve been going down.

    Changing direction when conditions call for it is good strategy. Being willing to consider that conditions may have changed enough that we need to change direction requires maturity. I’m willing to debate you if you’re able to maintain civility and bring evidence to support your points. I provided a bunch of evidence already in the “Open Letter” linked above. Please bring the counter-evidence that you say is science-based here and let’s look at it together.

  3. John,
    No scientist has ever, to my knowledge, claims that biodiversity and habitat are destroyed by a lack of human intervention, i.e. forestry/management. On the contrary, it is well understood that wildlife habitat is severely disrupted, when not utterly destroyed, by the treads of human activity. The degree of activity involved in logging (is this what you mean by management) is closer to the utterly destructive end of the spectrum, as is evident by photographs of the destruction in Wendell and Hardwick, to name a few.
    Most low-income residents in Massachusetts live in properties heated by fossil fuels, not wood. Furthermore, accessibility of wood is not greater than that of heating oil to low-income families.
    As for your unsupported claim that unmanaged forests are more susceptible to wildfires, this has been showed to be untrue to many scientists. The forest openings created by logging increase the risk and severity of wildfires by doing two things: (1) creating wind access points/corridors, and (2) reducing humidity levels on the forest floor and thereby, in the remaining trees in the area. Here is a resource for information on forest fires: https://vimeo.com/238751761

  4. Presumably John’s parallel universe spin is driven by his association with the old-school mentality that got us to the sorry state of the world we now inhabit. The Climate Crisis, unlike most of his list of ” implications” is a real scientifically peer reviewed thing and it threatens life on Earth. One of the few natural defenses against climate chaos we have at hand is allowing forests and even landscaping and street trees to continue doing the work of carbon capture. The science is clear. If John happens to be a parent or grandparent he’d do well to reeducate himself for the sake of his children if not for the entire world. That’s not emotion or opinion. That’s a fact.

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