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.•