My Turn: Five reasons to reject H. 2932 and start over


Thursday, January 25, 2018

The forests of Massachusetts are a treasure worth preserving. We should do everything we can to protect them from commercial interests and their supporters, who would exploit them for profit, mostly for bioenergy production.

Promoters of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (H. 2932) appear to deny the effects their $6 million project would have on climate change, wildlife and precious subsoil mycorrhizal networks and the health of neighbors and neighboring communities. Call the co-chairs of the ENRA Committee today and ask them to reject this foolhardy bill.

Here are five of many reasons this bill should not get a “pass”:

1. MTWP (H 2932) currently before the Joint Committee of Environment Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA), ignores the effects this bioenergy development and forestry project would have on climate change. H. 2932 promotes increased logging in Franklin and Berkshire Counties (including options for expansion) with no provisions for measuring or assessing impacts of: Greenhouse gas emissions released immediately from trees and soil during logging; Carbon, other greenhouse gas pollution and PM 2.5 particulate emissions from biomass burning, or from the long-term losses of carbon storage due to forest removal, thus resulting in a “triple whammy” blow to our climate. H. 2932 disregards benefits of preserving forests to fight climate change by storing carbon and maintaining more balanced ecosystems within the region.

2. H. 2932’s definition of “sustainable forest management” is arbitrary and unenforceable. There is no state law containing scientifically accepted criteria for “sustainable forest management,” which demonstrate the effects on interdependent animal and plant life within forests destroyed by feller buncher machines. No system currently exists which would help to enforce sustainability standards mentioned, nor how the control board would monitor or limit over-harvesting.

3. Another misconception is that H. 2932 would be of economic benefit to towns or to the region. In fact, forestry requires very few jobs, solo operators of destructive feller buncher machines and temporary jobs constructing a “Forestry Center” in the heart of the 21 Town region. Meanwhile, increased social costs from destroyed ecosystems and worsening climate far outweigh temporary profits of a few corporations or agencies who receive “pass through” budgetary advantages.

4. Some are under the false impression that MTWP is a “conservation bill” This could not be farther from the truth. The Franklin Land Trust would manage landowner “conservation easements” on only .7 percent of the land and utilizing approximately only 10 percent of the MA-USDA package of $30 million. It would offer tax advantage on lands similarly qualified under MGL CH 61A. MTWP pretends to be of benefit, so that a market for by-product “junk wood” is found after selling the tallest trees (which sequester the most carbon) for top dollar.

5. Paid already with nearly $2 million of mostly federal taxpayer funds, (without prior knowledge nor approval of said taxpayers) organizations such as Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Massachusetts Forest Alliance, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Energy Resources have designed and supported the most irresponsible, immoral bill that has been proposed in the Massachusetts Legislature in recent memory. They have expanded the use of pellets to heat Mohawk District Schools, despite serious health concerns raised by the American Lung Association. Even if promoters agreed to eliminate a pellet plant from the current plan, (presumably to get the bill passed) the control board could then put the pellet plant back in motion, having at its disposal $6 million, plus $24 million already applied for from the USDA via Rep. Richard Neal. Hundreds of citizens complained to Rep. Kulik, pleading with him to reject MTWP, based upon the latest climate science pointing to the folly of this forestry/logging project.

Scientists, doctors and community volunteers spoke against the bill at H. 2932’s hearing at the Statehouse last fall. Over 500 people from across the state signed postcards asking the ENRA committee to reject it. We have called and visited ENRA committee members. Has this public outcry been heard, or will wealthy government entities and special interests get their way? H. 2932 should be rejected by the ENRA committee and by its lead promoter, The Franklin Regional Council of Governments, whose fine reputation is on the line.

The bill denies the latest climate science, threatens biodiversity and the health of the Commons. A new bill, free of influence by the USDA and biomass commercial interests, could create “forever wild” designations to benefit landowners with assistance of the well-reputed Northeast Wilderness Trust. Let’s reject this bill and co-create one which would help, not harm our precious Massachusetts forests.

Beth Adams lives in Leverett and is the program coordinator of Mass Forest Rescue Campaign and producer/host of “The Singing Wilderness and Eco Beat Hour” on WMCB.net, 107.9 in Greenfield.