Still seeing threat to forests

  • Matera Chris—Matera Chris

Monday, February 26, 2018

It has been said that a fool and his money soon go separate ways. Let’s hope it won’t ever be said that a foolish citizenry and its money and forests went separate ways in beautiful Berkshire and Franklin Counties in western Massachusetts.

Despite its benign sounding name “The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership”, or House Bill 2932, is a publicly subsidized commercial logging and biomass burning enterprise masquerading as concern for nature. The only way the conscientious residents who treasure this beautiful area would voluntarily go along with the degradation of their environment and landscape that would result from this proposal is by being duped into doing so.

This statement from the New England Forestry Foundation helps illuminate the underlying motives of the alleged land “conservation” claims tied to increased logging:

“It’s hard to sell New England Forestry Foundation memberships on the notion that we harvest trees. We have to frame it that we protect land — we have to go at it obliquely.”

~Whitney Beals, New England Forestry Foundation

Contrary to public understanding, most foresters are not paid to protect forests, they are usually paid to prepare cutting plans or for other activities that facilitate logging. Consequently, their opinions are usually biased in favor of forest cutting instead of protecting the other critical forest functions such as carbon sequestration, clean air, clean water, scenic beauty, undisturbed wildlife habitat, spiritual sanctuary, recreation opportunities, etc. which are all degraded by logging.

All the clearcuts shown at the link below were designed by professional foresters: www.maforests.org

Importantly, a forest left in peace to grow without logging is by far the best forest “management” decision that can be made regarding carbon impacts. Short of that scenario, the less cutting, the better. Here is a report showing how logging affects forest carbon. See figures 2 and 3 for a summary if you don’t want to read the whole report: www.maforests.org/UVM.pdf

When we humans log a forest, 99.9 percent of the time we are cutting for wood and money, so we should not kid ourselves and others that we are doing so to “help” the forest or nature. Quite to the contrary, logging damages the forest ecology. Nobody is saying never cut a tree, but many are rightly saying that there is no logical justification for an increase in cutting at taxpayer expense, particularly if we sincerely care about the climate, air quality and other important forest values.

Public subsidies are meant to encourage activities that benefit the public. Much of the public sees value in public subsidies for authentic protection of forests and genuinely cleaner and “greener” energy options such as solar, geothermal, conservation and efficiency which provide a public benefit. However, increased logging and biomass burning provides no real public benefits and instead just increases public costs.

Tree-fueled biomass energy (including CHP and thermal) has a higher carbon footprint (even when accounting for forest growth) and greater emission rates of many dangerous conventional pollutants (even with the best available pollution controls) than the dirtiest fossil fuels.

Additionally, the increased logging required would increase the ecological damage and landscape impacts to our critically important forests. So why in the world should the public pay for it?

Unfortunately, the modern day “greenwashing” problem goes deeper than many would like to admit. Even some of the bigger so-called “green” groups like the Nature Conservancy who accept House Bill 2932 have become big businesses and are too closely tied financially to industry and government to be trusted to put the protection of nature ahead of protection of their finances. Yes, this is disturbing, but see for yourself at the link below:


Another good reason to reject this proposal is that it would create a “partnership” with the U.S. Forest Service (not to be confused with the respectable U.S. Park Service). Please look at this link to see how poorly the Forest Service treats beautiful White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. This is not the type of forest “management” that people in beautiful Franklin and Berkshire Counties would likely appreciate. All of these damaging National Forest clearcuts were also designed by professional foresters. www.maforests.org/WMNF.pdf

In summary, public subsidies through “The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership” or House Bill 2932 would result in greater forest damage, increased air pollution and higher carbon emissions in order to provide a financial benefit for an extremely narrow group of private interests.

Such private gain at great public expense is the exact opposite of what public subsidies are meant to do, and for this reason among others, HB 2932 should be rejected.

Chris Matera is a civil engineer and the founder of Massachusetts Forest Watch, a volunteer citizens group formed to protect New England forests and advocate for genuinely “green” energy choices