Masssachusetts, Posted May 12, 2005: In a new
scientific report entitled Wildlands and Woodlands:
A Vision for the Forests of Massachusetts, Dr.
David Foster the Director of Harvard University's Harvard
Forest along with his colleagues is calling for a bold
new land protection effort to stave-off accelerating
forest fragmentation in Massachusetts. "The time
has come to step-up to the challenge of protecting the
Commonwealth's forest infrastructure," said Dr.
The scientists cite forest loss statistics such as
the fact that Massachusetts is losing open space to
development at a rate of 40 acres each day, and call
- Establishing 250,000 acres of large Wildland reserves
predominantly on existing public land, where nature
is left to follow its own course without human intervention.
This would encompass 50 percent of state-owned lands
whereas state government is currently considering
- Protecting 2.25 million acres (nearly half of the
state) as well-managed Woodlands to support sustainable
timber harvesting, extensive wildlife habitat and
human recreation and enjoyment; and
- Forming Woodland Councils to provide a mechanism
for focusing energy, funding and public participation
to achieve broad-scale land protection in a state
where more than three-fourths of all forest is privately
The Wildlands and Woodlands approach is consistent
with other initiatives in Massachusetts such as the
2003 Statewide Land Conservation Plan, which has all
but disappeared from public discourse. It also applies
beyond Massachusetts to many states in New England and
the Eastern U.S. with expanses of forest similarly dominated
by private ownership.
The authors point to several large areas of state-owned
land that could be readily designated as Wildland reserves
in the Northern Berkshires, Southern Taconics, northern
Worcester County, and southeastern Massachusetts. According
to Dr. Foster, "We strongly support timber harvesting
and management on state-owned land. But we also believe
it is time to evaluate which state lands should be set-aside
as large reserves, and we think 50 percent (250,000 acres)
is achievable. No state east of the Mississippi would
have a comparable network of wild, naturally functioning
"The nature of forest
loss in the 21st century is different than anything
we have seen in the past. Pavement is almost always
- Dr. David Foster
Co-author and State Extension Forester Dr. David Kittredge
points to the need for greater attention to the management
and conservation of private forestland. "Our current
system for informing and supporting private forest landowners
in Massachusetts is woefully inadequate. The Woodland
Councils we've proposed would help fill the current
void in private forest management," said Dr. Kittredge.
"We have to realize that we rely on our forests
for clean air, clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat
and wood. The nature of forest loss in the 21st century
is different than anything we have seen in the past.
Pavement is almost always permanent," adds Dr.
Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the Forests of
Massachusetts was funded by the Conservation Research
Foundation, the Fine Family Foundation, Friends of the
Harvard Forest and Sweet Water Trust.
The report will be available on the Harvard Forest
website on May 5, 9:00 AM EST: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/wandw