Forest Alliance protests Wendell logging project

  • Local protesters picket the logging operation in Wendell State Forest that began Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

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

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

  • New gates have recently been installed at all access points to Wendell State Forest, closing it to all recreation during logging operations. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rick Davis of Montague was not happy at being denied access to his favorite fishing pond on Monday. New gates have recently been installed at all access points to Wendell State Forest, closing it to all recreation during logging operations. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Two mountain bikers proceeded around the gate at Carlton Road to use the Wendell State Forest on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2019 2:30:18 AM

WENDELL — After continued efforts, and saying they’re willing to risk arrest, members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance stood by the opposed logging site for their first day of protest Monday.

Residents involved with the Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group affiliated with the nonprofit conservation group RESTORE: The North Woods — said Monday that they’ll be on site in Wendell State Forest to protest until they stop the logging project or the project is completed. The alliance is protesting the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR’s) selective logging of a roughly 80-acre old oak stand.

Leading up to this week’s protests, alliance members have held signs on the side of Route 2, had rallies at the Wendell State Forest Ranger Station and garnered more than 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition.

Gia Neswald, a Turner Falls resident and organizer, said the Department of Conservation and Recreation told the alliance there is no appeal process for logging contracts. The logging project is being carried out by John H. Conkey & Sons Logging Inc., a privately held company from Belchertown.

“We plan to be out here every day that there is activity,” Neswald said.

While gates at all access points to Wendell State Forest have closed it to recreation during logging operations, the protestors gathered along Montague Road.

The group held signs, calling to “Save the Forest” and “Save the Climate.” Others, including Neswald, held signs that read “Pass Bill H.897.” According to Neswald, this bill, which has been introduced and sponsored by Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and was co-written by Janet Sinclair of the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, would ban commercial logging on all public lands in the state. Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, is one of several other sponsors of the bill.

“This is what we would consider industrial-scale logging, this isn’t real logging or forestry,” said Glen Ayers, a Greenfield resident and member of the Wendell State Forest Alliance.

Members of the alliance said they want to get to a point where the 13 percent of forested land in the state remains completely protected. There are two sites within Wendell State Forest that are protected land for Jefferson salamander, a mole salamander native to the northeastern United States, but Neswald expressed concern over how this might affect their habitat.

“The DCR protects them to some degree, but it’s insufficient,” Neswald said. “This is a really precious biome.”

Alliance member Jonathan von Ranson described the protest as a wedge into the entire issue of forest management. The group hopes to shift forest management tactics to a point where they maintain a “wild status.”

“We can make a small step in the right direction,” said Bill Stubblefield, a biodiversity scientist and alliance member. “The forest should be managed by the forest.”

 Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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