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Editorial: Good forestry practices at work

Good forestry practices are a set of concepts that have been around for centuries — yet can still spark debate.

We can’t say that it’s surprising that logging at the West Whately and Francis P. Ryan reservoirs in Whately, owned by the city of Northampton, has caused concern in some quarters, particularly Chris Matera of Massachusetts Forest Watch.

Franklin County residents may remember Matera as the individual whose rallying cry, “stop the Massachusetts chainsaw massacre” was voiced in response to logging efforts on the state’s public lands — and who was one of the strident voices opposing attempts to build a biomass plant in Greenfield.

Now, Matera sees some sort of conspiracy involving the city and logging interests with what’s been taking place on the reservoir properties. Northampton officials, for their part, are defending what they’re doing as a way to better ensure a healthier forest.

“The forest captures, filters, stores and releases water into the reservoirs little by little. It’s not hard to imagine that the healthiest forest is going to do a better job,” says forester Michael Mauri, who works for Northampton’s DPW.

Matera has stated that “Peer-reviewed, credible science says there is no ‘need’ to log these forests, and many reasons not to.”

We’re not sure what kind of “credible science” Matera is referring to, but we do know that forest management and good forestry practices, whether on public or private land, has been around for centuries, beginning in Europe and later here in the United States. This includes the founding of schools of forestry and the push to support forest management based on science. It’s such studies that over time have produced what is known as “best management practices,” aimed at goals for silviculture, water quality, etc., and management objectives.

And it provides information on what practices to avoid.

We would argue that all this was taken into account in creating the Forest Stewardship Plans, including having a number of public hearings before any action was taken. The care taken here is with the understanding that the land and all that’s located there are assets.

But assets have to be managed. Sometimes, that calls for the removing of trees, based upon science and best practices, to ensure that those that are left remain healthy.

Trees are, after all, a crop — albeit a long-lived one — and woodlands are the fields in which they are planted, thinned and harvested.

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