Wendell Forest protesters ‘pushed closer to risking arrest’

  • Wendell State Forest. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2019 12:07:54 AM
Modified: 8/2/2019 12:07:42 AM

WENDELL — Pleas for the state to halt the logging project in Wendell State Forest have gone unheeded, and protesters, citing concerns about climate change, say they are now willing to risk arrest by physically stopping the project.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group affiliated with nonprofit conservation group RESTORE: The North Woods — has held signs on the side of Route 2, held rallies at the Wendell State Forest Ranger Station and garnered over 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition over the last year.

Their issue is with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) project to selectively log a roughly 80-acre old oak stand off Brook Road in Wendell State Forest. The state agency says it is protecting long-term forest health, but protesters say the project is counterproductive in fighting climate change.

The harvesting of the oak stand is set to begin imminently, with gates erected and permits posted near the logging site, and the Wendell State Forest Alliance says it’s not giving up.

“As a result of DCR’s actions and in assertion of our citizens’ rights and obligations to save the planet from climate disaster, the (Wendell State Forest Alliance) is prepared to defend the Wendell State Forest via nonviolent direct action should commercial logging proceed there,” said Miriam Kurland, Wendell State Forest Alliance spokeswoman, in a statement.

Kurland did not elaborate on what specifically the protesters would do to physically stop the logging but wrote the protesters are being “pushed closer to risking arrest” due to the state’s insistence on carrying out the project.

The main reason for opposing the project, protesters say, has to do with carbon sequestration. As trees grow older and larger, they sequester more carbon — a phenomenon recognized by the U.N. as important in combating climate change and global warming.

“Recent climate science finds that forests left uncut are the best option for addressing and halting the present climate disaster,” Kurland said, adding that “forest protectors will be on site as soon as any cutting commences” and “supporters are invited to witness DCR’s degradation of our forest and support the brave efforts of those standing to protect them.”

The group has given other reasons for opposing the project, too, including preserving native wildlife populations like the rare Jefferson salamander found in the forest. They’ve also accused the DCR of “intentional stonewalling” and withholding requested information about the project, an allegation the department denies.

“The state forests belong to the citizens of Massachusetts, and it is incumbent upon the officials of the state to be responsive to the citizens,” Kurland said. “Humanity’s understanding of trees is in its infancy. Now — just as we are learning about their importance in mitigating the climate crisis — is not the time to destroy them.”

However, the DCR does not actually refute any of the protesters’ claims about carbon sequestration and climate change. DCR Commissioner Leo Roy, at a meeting with the Wendell Selectboard last year, acknowledged that older trees — like the 110-year-old oaks in Wendell State Forest — sequester more carbon, which is ultimately good for the environment.

Rather, Roy’s contention was that selective cutting in the forest will improve forest health, and is best for climate protection efforts in the long run. It is better to have a heterogeneous forest with trees of differing types and ages, which will reach peak carbon-sequestering ages at different times, Roy said.

Massachusetts’ forests are too homogenous, Roy said, including those in Wendell, and selective logging will provide the “greatest long-term ability to sequester carbon.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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