Two Wendell State Forest protesters arrested

  • Local protesters on Montague Road in Wendell picket the logging operation in Wendell State Forest that began on Monday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Local protesters picket the logging operation in Wendell State Forest that began on Monday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2019 11:00:22 PM

WENDELL — Protesters have followed through on their assertions they are willing to risk being arrested to stop a state logging project in Wendell State Forest.

Members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group that has been protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s local logging project with rallies, picketing and anti-logging petitions over the last year — have been on site at Wendell State Forest since Monday.

They strenuously object to the selective harvesting of an 80-acre, 110-year-old oak stand, and they’ve cited studies from conservation groups stating forest preservation is crucial in combating climate change. They also released a statement in July saying Wendell State Forest Alliance members would be willing to attempt to physically stop the project through nonviolent means, even if it means being arrested.

Massachusetts State Police confirmed Tuesday night that Gia Neswald, 50, of Montague, and Priscilla Lynch, 67, of Conway, were arrested earlier in the afternoon on Montague Road in Wendell State Forest.

Both women were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, and were taken to the State Police barracks in Athol for booking.

According to a statement from an on-site Wendell State Forest Alliance member, the two women were arrested after standing in front of a logging truck.

Neswald previously told the Greenfield Recorder there is no appeal process for logging contracts, and that the group would be on site “every day there is activity.”

The Wendell State Forest Alliance has also accused DCR of “intentional stonewalling” and withholding information about the project, a claim DCR denies, and said the protests are to protect the forest’s recreational value and native populations, such as the rare Jefferson salamander.

The group’s pleas have gone unheeded, with logging permits and gates recently put up around the harvest site. John H. Conkey & Sons Logging Inc., a private company from Belchertown, is carrying out the project.

The state does not disagree with the idea that forest preservation is important in fighting global climate change. Large, old trees — like those being cut in Wendell — typically sequester more carbon than younger trees, a phenomenon accepted as countering climate change and global warming. Both DCR and the protesters agree on this.

Rather, DCR contends that the project is best for the long-term health of the forest — and ultimately best for long-term climate protection.

In a meeting with the Wendell Selectboard last year, DCR Commissioner Leo Roy said forests should be kept diverse, with trees of differing ages and types, to maintain forest health, and that some of Massachusetts’ forests are too homogenous.

Also, Roy said, having trees of differing ages in a forest creates a flow of trees reaching their peak carbon-sequestering ages, and more carbon will be sequestered in the long run by selectively logging older trees.

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




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