Report: New England losing 65 acres of forest per day

Associated Press
Published: 9/19/2017 10:32:56 PM

BOSTON — New England has been losing forest land to development at a rate of 65 acres per day — a loss that comes at a time when public funding for preservation of open land, both state and federal, has also been on the decline in all six states.

That’s the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University.

The study found public funding for land conservation in New England dropped by half between 2008 and 2014 to $62 million per year, slightly lower than 2004 levels.

During the same time, the pace of regional land conservation slowed from an average of 333,000 acres per year in the early 2000s to about 50,000 acres per year since 2010.

Harvard Forest Director David Foster said the study, produced with the help of a team of authors from across the region, relied on satellite imagery to determine how much land was being lost.

He said development is concentrated in southern New England and along the coastline, but there has also been development around cities like Burlington, Vermont, or even in rural areas where individual homes and roads can intersect the forest.

“The conversion of forest and farm lands to permanent structures is really changing the face of the New England landscape,” he said. “One of the things that makes New England one of the most compelling places to live is the green space.”

Jonathan Thompson, a senior ecologist for Harvard Forest, said the report shows New England is reaching a transition point. After 150 years of reclaiming forest land, all six states are again losing open space.

Massachusetts has been losing forest land to development faster than any other New England state at a rate of 7,000 acres a year, compared to Maine (6,100 acres), New Hampshire (5,000), Connecticut (3,700), Vermont (1,500) and Rhode Island (800).

The state with the highest percentage of its land conserved as forest or farmland is New Hampshire, with 30 percent, followed by Massachusetts (24 percent), Vermont (23 percent), Rhode Island (20 percent), Maine (19 percent) and Connecticut (15 percent).

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