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Environmentalists pan state forest cutting plans



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A coalition of environmental groups is calling on the state to analyze how its planned tree-cutting projects in Wendell State Forest, Colrain’s Cook State Forest and six other forests around the state could affect climate change.

In a letter last week to the agency overseeing planned cutting, Michael Kellett, executive director of RESTORE: The North Woods, questioned plans to do cutting at the forests without first conducting an “on-the-ground baseline carbon inventory” as recommended in the state’s 2012 report called “Landscape Designations for DCR Parks and Forests: Selection and Management Guidelines.” That report resulted from a Forest Futures Visioning Process initiated in 2009.

Kellett and many of the letter’s 20 other signatories were members of visioning process advisory group.

The letter says, “To date, Massachusetts policy makers and agency officials have not risen to (the) challenges” of publishing a state greenhouse gas emissions inventory that includes emission sources and carbon reserves to help in meeting statewide greenhouse-gas emission goals set in the state Global Warming Solutions Act.

“Instead of providing strong regulation of … emissions from forests, (the state Department of Environmental Protection) has allowed DCR (the Department of Conservation and Recreation) to continue a forest management program with no apparent requirement that it conduct an on-the-ground baseline carbon inventory, or that it ensure that its programs are helping to achieve (greenhouse gas) reduction goals.

“Instead, as indicated by the eight forest management projects currently proposed by DCR, the agency has fallen back into business as usual, cutting our state forests with no apparent regard or accountability for carbon sequestration or climate impacts. These projects provide considerable detail in describing available ‘stands’ of timber, why they should be cut, and how the agency plans to cut them. However, none of them include any mention whatsoever of climate change or documentation of the net carbon impacts of the project.”

“Massachusetts could protect these forests to mitigate climate change, leading the way that other states might follow,” said environmental consultant Ellen Moyer, who signed the letter. “Instead, thus far, DCR has stuck its head in the sand, ignoring the issue as well as the citizens who have repeatedly requested information regarding the climate impacts of DCR’s logging program.”

Among other signers are Janet Sinclair of Buckland and Lynn Ballard, Patrick Devlin, Beth Adams and Glen Ayers of Greenfield.

Ayers, who said he attended a hearing a couple of weeks ago at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst about the proposed cutting a year or two from now on about 120 acres between Ruggles and Wickett ponds in Wendell, questioned why DCR, at a time of limited state funding, is focused on forest cutting when the timber stands are not yet mature and when, he asserted, the agency’s park facilities are in need of attention.

“The whole program is a money-losing proposition,” said Ayers, echoing questions raised in the letter weighing the costs and benefits of the cutting.

The roughly 287-acre H.O. Cook State Forest project, as proposed, would take at least 5 years to complete, according to DCR.

Also included in the proposed cutting are portions of Sandisfield, October Mountain, Oakham, Savoy and Townsend state forests.

DCR spokesman Troy Wall said, “The Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to successfully combating and mitigating the effects of climate change while protecting our state’s natural resources. The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s forest management projects continue to experience a robust public process, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure the state’s public land forestry is conducted sustainably and according to the best forest management practices.”

Calling on the agency “to begin fully and seriously addressing the carbon and climate impacts of forest management, the letter calls on it to:

describe how DCR plans to measure each of the (regional greenhouse gas initiative) factors listed, as well as emissions from burning of forest biomass — before the project is begun, and how it will provide follow-up measurements after the project is completed;

supply numerical data for each of these factors;

explain how each project conforms with the mandate of the Global Warming Solutions Act to collaborate with the DEP to monitor and regulate emissions of greenhouse gases with the goal of reducing those emissions;

provide estimates of the expected net carbon emission and sequestration impacts of these projects by 2020 and 2050;

if the proposed project does not maximize the amount of stored forest carbon, fully and transparently explain why DCR has concluded that the benefits from not doing so outweigh the costs; and

offer an opportunity for public review and comment on these findings.

On the Web: bit.ly/1qCW3T8

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 269