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. Foster.
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 for:
- 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;
- 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 owned.
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 forest ecosystems."
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. Foster.
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