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Guest Column: Stop Logging Public Land

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is reopening public land to commercial logging, despite public comments overwhelmingly opposing this move. Loggers are preparing to clear-cut intact forests in the Quabbin Reservation, the largest tract of public land in southern New England, which surrounds the main water supply for metropolitan Boston.

We’re losing trees fast, and not just in tropical rainforests. Satellite imagery documents the devastation. Dr. Bruce Railsback of the University of Georgia has compiled damning photographic evidence, which Google Earth images of national forests in the United States and Canada reinforce.

Deforestation accounts for at least 15 percent of global carbon emissions. Trees are our climate saviors, and it takes decades or centuries—time we don’t have—to recover from the mistake of cutting them down. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is released when trees are cut down. Thus, cutting down trees is a double whammy because we not only lose carbon capture capacity, we release more carbon, too.

An erroneous conventional view holds that young trees capture more dioxide than mature trees. However, trees increase their growth rates and sequester more carbon as they age. Large amounts of carbon are stored in the living wood and the soil of old forests. Forests left undisturbed for 1,000 years or more continue to suck carbon into the soil. Uncut forests store more carbon than do forests that are logged, and the loss of carbon is proportional to the extent of harvesting. Over two-thirds of the total carbon in forest ecosystems is stored in forest soil, and significant release of soil carbon occurs from logging. Forests in the United States sequester 10 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Can developed countries, in good faith, ask less developed countries to preserve their forests to mop up our carbon while we’re mowing down our own forests? Recklessly destroying our forests sets a bad example worldwide and displays a lack of basic intelligence and fairness. We’re the ones spewing out most of the carbon. A 2012 study estimates that climate disruption kills nearly 1,000 children every day. How many more must be killed before we get serious?

We must immediately solve a two-part equation. One part is reducing new emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, through energy conservation, efficiency, and increased reliance on our toolbox of solar and other technologies that do not involve combustion. The other part is mitigating the effects of the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted by allowing trees to remove them from the atmosphere.

Massachusetts could become a leader in forest preservation. Massachusetts was the first state to rein in undeserved subsidies for biomass power plants, and is the most energy-efficient state in the country. Governor Patrick should immediately halt logging on public land in the state and then work to permanently safeguard forests. Citizens need to call on him to do so, for example, by emailing him at www.mass.gov/governor/constituentservices/contact/ or calling (888) 870-7770.•

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The quabbin is not being clearcut. After a major review of forestry practices and a total remapping of Department of Conservation and recration managed lands, some limited harvesting of timber has been approved. This is after a mutliple year project of designating lands for perment conservation, parks and managed forests. This process has been very transparent with both public and scientific input. All work on public forests is preceded by public postings and the oppurinity to visit the sites and ask questions or offer suggestions on these activites. This would show the small pecerentage of lane actually being considered for harvesting, and the forest openings far from being as large as is commonaly done in commerical clearcuts. While it is understandable that some feel no trees should ever be cut on public lands, announcing the quabbin is being clearcut and implying its being deforested is far from accurate

Posted by Leon Caragulian on 3.4.14 at 14:39

Whether it's described as clear-cutting or as "limited harvesting of timber", commercial logging on public lands and watersheds is short-sighted, unnecessary, and should be banned. What spurred the original moratorium was the fact that activists and journalists documented that clear-cuts were taking place and forestry officials in the end admitted that their own rules were being violated and that the public was not adequately informed of the extent of the logging. In addition to diminishing the carbon storage effects of trees in public forests, commercial logging in drinking-water supply watersheds puts the municipalities and the state at risk of greater expense if water quality declines and costly filtration systems have to be built as a result. Be very skeptical of the arguments that will be mustered trying to convince us that commercial logging is somehow good for these forests and for the public watersheds.

Posted by Malcolm McNee on 3.4.14 at 19:43

It sounds like the public already weighed in. No commercial loggin on public land. Should we all go visit the site and say it again?

Posted by valleygirl2 on 3.4.14 at 19:52

Whenever I think of logging I think of the donut version of Homer Simpson, who can't stop eating himself becuse he's so moist and tasty-- or profitable, in the case of logging-- even though in both cases, we're only devouring ourselves.

Trees have been and will continue to be one of our partners in this world, but just as most of us now know it is wrong to kill and commodify whales, trees need to become less and less our commodity and more a part of our strategy for saving the world. We can't do it without them.

Posted by michaelann bewsee on 3.4.14 at 19:53

Sadly, the state does intend to log and clearcut again in the Quabbin and on other public forests. Of course they don't use the "sensitive" word clearcut, they use other Orwellian names to mislead the public, but clearcut they intend to do.

The latest DCR Quabbin plan for stealing our public treasure and handing it off to private interests, calls for leaving “5-10 sf of tree basal area per acre” on 95% of cuts over ½ acre. That is about 5 to 10 medium sized trees per acre, which is about equal 5 to 10 medium sized trees per football field, which is a clearcut to anyone without a logging agenda. The ½ acre cuts will be a multitude of adjacent half a football field size holes in the forest and ruts on the forest floor. The other 5% of cuts will be basic old stump-filled clearcuts without the 5-10 tree window dressing.

Most disturbingly, the same managers, with their same nonsensical, scientifically unsupportable, insulting, Orwellian claims that logging is being done to “help” water quality are still in charge with their goal of handing off the public treasure to private commercial interests. See the photos of what these exact same forest “managers” claim was being done to “help” the forest and water quality in the Quabbin at these links:

Quabbin Watershed Clearcutting – Google Earth (5 MB): www.maforests.org/QUABBIN_Google_Earth.pdf

Quabbin Watershed Clearcutting – Ground and Aerial View (15 MB): www.maforests.org/QUABBIN.pdf

In any case, there is no excuse for commercially logging these public watershed forests.

The watershed timber program operates at a loss and thus is subsidized by Massachusetts citizens. Most of the logs are sent to Quebec.

Even according to non-treehugger sources, the public “overwhelmingly” prefers no commercial logging on public lands. The primary purpose of DCR watershed forests is protection of the drinking water supply, not supplying mills in Quebec. Logging is well known to have the potential to degrade water quality and more than 2 million Massachusetts residents depend on water coming from these watersheds.

State owned watersheds forests represent only 2% of Massachusetts land area and 3% of its forests yet are the largest intact block of forest in Massachusetts and represent our best chance to preserve and protect wilderness areas, fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, tourism income, carbon sequestration, scenic beauty and recreational opportunities in this 3rd most densely populated state of 6,000,000 residents.

Amazingly, even so called “progressive” Northampton is currently on the watershed logging bandwagon. Current plans call for logging 401 acres of the 3000 acre watershed area in the just first 2 years of the logging program. This tragedy also occurs at a financial and ecological loss to its citizens. See: http://www.maforests.org/NORTHAMPTON,MA,DEFORESTATION.pdf

Lets save some nature for our kids, and some much need public money, by halting the commercial logging of our public forests.

Chris Matera, P.E.

www.maforests.org

Northampton, MA, 01060

Posted by Chris Matera on 3.4.14 at 20:36

Don't buy the b.s. that the Quabbin is not being clearcut. So called "patch cuts" are nothing but clearcutting patched together. The management of the Quabbin watershed forest has come unglued. What was once a model of forestry management is now a disaster in the making. In this age of climate chaos we must rethink our entire approach to forestry. In that regard our state, which is exemplary in other aspects of addressing the Climate Crisis, is out to lunch. We would be better off in terms of the Climate to do nothing in the watershed than to take out great swaths of trees and call it good forestry.

Posted by Don Ogden on 3.5.14 at 5:29

We need to save the Quabbin. The Quabbin is the largest tract of public forest land in southern New England. This is a place of regional and national significance, which provides clean water and air, habitat for sensitive wildlife, carbon storage to fight climate change, scenic beauty, and wilderness recreation — a rarity in New England. We should not allow this unique forest to be cut down to benefit selfish industrial forestry interests. We should designate the Quabbin as a National Preserve to ensure its permanent protection for the benefit of all Americans. I hope all concerned Massachusetts citizens will join together in demanding that the state halt its irresponsible logging program and take positive action to save the Quabbin and other state forest lands.

Posted by Michael Kellett on 3.5.14 at 7:38

I find this article, and especially the responding comment quite misguided and somewhat comical. I don't even know where to begin....

I am not a logger and have no interests or involvement with either the quabbin or City of Northamton. However, you all need to understand the much bigger picture and give credit to these people for responsible logging and forest management, not acuse them of being part of the problem you so claim.

First of all, unless you wipe your backside with plastic, do not live in a house or have cabinets, use no electricity requiring overhead lines, don't buy or read books, and refuse to use furniture, then you are all just very big hypocryts for attacking the people and industry that is first in line for providing you with many of the things you enjoy daily. Either that or you contradict yourself and would really prefer that "clearcutting" practices continue around the world so that you can take advantage of modern lifestyles without any of it happening in your back yard.....even though in some other areas of the world it is not done with restrictions and responsibility like it is here. I mean come on people, do you truly think these groups are recklessly destroying something with no care for enviroment. They have nothing to gain by doing that. Nobody is getting rich by selectively and safely cutting timber for that it can be processed into the things we need to live. Grow up and realize that logging is required.....unless you suggest we all build igloos and teepees.

Now I totally agree that trees are a huge part of our earths health. In case you didn't realize this.....they grow back!!!! They grow back very quickly actually. Now when they are cut and cleared to build highways, and factories, or malls and parking lots they are not allowed to grow back. But, when forests and wood lots are managed such as DCR and City of Northampton does, the forests remain healthy and viable throughout the many stages of the process.

I am quite surprised at the ignorance on display here. Do you folks really believe the desk your computer is on is not made of wood? Did the materials for your own bed and dresser come from outer space? Why should the burden of supplying all this wood to our population be solely placed on private landowners? I believe that if the public is demanding wood products then it is sensible and fair that at least some of it comes from public property. Why shouldn't it? Stop spending your time and money on gas to drive around taking pictures of logging and go plant some trees on your own property.

Posted by Harlan Bean on 3.7.14 at 11:54

It should be also noted during these cold Days That public lands supply a great deal of fule wood that is comsumed locally. Money of our neibors still use firewood as a primary and secondary source of heat. All most all of the firewood produced from public land stays within 30 miles of where its harvested. Used by the people who are also stakeholders in thses lands. A locally grown product used by the local population.

While logging always brings heated debate we should not lose sight of the greatest threat to our forests. Developement. Recently an article noted how farmers in franklin county were unsure of the future of their farms as their familyies may not have an interest in farming. Many of these farms also have woodlands. While other deabtes continue we should all show a united front on this issue by purchasing local products (including forest products) and work to protect these lands. Housing developements don't remove much carbon.....

Posted by Leon Caragulian on 3.8.14 at 12:27

Gotta love Mr. Bean's Reductio ad absurdum argument: Use toilet paper? then you gotta support logging. ALL logging! And, clearly having limited grasp of the issues, he labels those advocating for protection of public forests as "ignorant." Astounding. Yes, Mr. Bean, trees grow back. But forests don't, necessarily, and certainly not quickly, and the havoc that's imposed on a site through cutting, road building, soil compaction and erosion, loss of biodiversity, and of stored carbon, is not simply negated by trees "growing back." And this doesn't even touch on the distinctions between public and private forest lands and the different considerations that apply to their uses. The issue is not as simple as you seem to think.

Posted by Chuck Levin on 3.8.14 at 20:37

As a MA Certified Public Water Supply Operator, a MA Registered Sanitarian, and a Soil Scientist by training, I believe that logging in the Quabbin watershed protection forests is both stupid and illegal. The DCR is using a fake "sicentific" review called the STAC Report to justify its deforestation program. The STAC Report was written behind closed doors, no public input was allowed, and all comments critical of it were summarily dismissed by DCR. The process had no legitimacy and the result is a corrupt fraud. The plans to "log" (de-forest) the Quabbin are a blatant violation of the MA Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) requirement to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 emissions levels. DCR has refused to comply with the GWSA, maintaining that it is exempt from State Law, even though no legislative exemptions were provided. In addition, the Quabbin Reservior itself is a large emitter of methane gas, a much more potent GHG than CO2. This will end up in court and DCR will be forced to comply with the same laws that apply to other state agencies. DCR, which stands for the Department of Cut and Run, should be abbolished and replaced by a true Park Service agency that will actually care for the land, instead of selling off our public jewels at a loss in exchange for political favors. The Quabbin is run like a Russian fiefdom of corruption, ruled by a good ole' boys club for the benefit of a few. While the public is told to stay out in order to "protect" the water supply, the right people are allowed to bring in their industrial machinery and stripmine the public forests that were purchased with public funds to protect the public's water. All for private profit. It is stupid, it stinks, and Gov Partick should be reprimanded for allowing the cronyism and corruption to flourish on his watch. Call Patrick and let him know you can smell his mess at the Quabbin. It fouls his name and legacy.

Posted by Glen Ayers on 3.9.14 at 7:42

Regarding harvesting trees at the Quabbin Reservoir and other state lands- there are arguments to support less or no harvesting- such as the legitimate need for “reserves” for ecological reasons, the fact that much of the public likes to see mature forests and for other reasons. But instead of making those claims, the critics are making broad attacks against all forestry. As one commentator here said, that would be a fair critique from someone who has no use of any wood in their life but I suspect the critics like wood products too. So, instead of attacking all forestry worldwide, they should focus on why there should be little or no forestry on some or all state lands. As for forestry on private lands, which they apparently also dislike, they should struggle to find ways to improve private sector forestry since much of it is poorly done. That would be a major contribution, rather than attacking all forestry. If all private sector forestry was well done, there probably wouldn’t be a need for harvesting on state lands, at least in terms of producing the raw material that we all like so much. Those in favor of logging state lands have never acknowledged the poor logging work done in the first decade of this century. They brought the moratorium on themselves. The state will now need to prove that it can do great forestry- if it doesn’t, it may find itself shut out of forestry for a very long time. Superb quality forestry is a very good thing with minimal impact to global warming and ecological values while potentially being good economics. And though it might be hard to believe, good forestry can actually enhance forest aesthetics. This forestry debate has become unnecessarily polarized- there is a middle of the road, common sense perspective. More people should focus on improving forestry, not stopping it- though perhaps much public forest land is best not managed, to say all should be unmanaged is an extremist position. As for any calls for more “green energy” and how wonderful it is, perhaps they haven’t seen the poorly implemented solar and wind farms in this state. Most of the solar “farms” have converted forests and fields into hard packed gravel or deserts and covered the land with panels shipped from China, where there are no environmental protections. As for wind “farms”- do any of the critics of forestry want one behind THEIR house? Solar and wind “farms” no longer can sequester carbon or produce oxygen as fields and forests once did. Wind farms on mountain tops are highly destructive to the land. Worshipping such phony, heavily subsidized, “green energy” is naïve in the extreme.

Joe Zorzin

“a forester for 40 years”

Posted by Joseph Zorzin on 3.10.14 at 6:09
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