Our forests: Denying science kills species

Published: 9/30/2020 4:47:46 PM

The chief argument as to why we should stop managing our forests is to increase the amount of carbon storage. While that’s an honorable goal it is narrow-focused.

Aldo Leopold writes, “If the land mechanism as a whole is good then every part is good, whether we understand it or not …To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

Ignoring the needs of the natural world is the very reason why we are in a climate crisis to begin with.

In a paper put out by the Harvard Forest titled “The Illusion of Preservation,” it is stated that for every 20 acres of Massachusetts forest not managed, one acre of primary forest (forest that has never been logged) is destroyed globally (in poor areas that often have less regulation and therefore it harms the environment and workers more in the process). Massachusetts imports more resources than it exports. We import 98% of our wood needs, according to UMass research.

Affluent areas insist on not using their resources for aesthetic reasons using flawed interpretations of science to justify them. This suggests our land is “pristine and untouched” which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The idea that our forests can return to a once “wild” state is a racist idea rooted in colonialism and in the belief that Native peoples had little to no effect on the landscape around them. We can’t just completely modify our landscape with homes, roads, buildings, farmland, power lines, and then stop short, believing that we can leave the forest that is part of a fragmented landscape “natural.”

There is no natural in the way that we like to imagine it. There is, however, science-based understanding of natural systems that informs management that promotes diversity and makes sure that the woods are alive and vibrant.

We know we are losing the cogs and wheels. Active management is the only way to preserve these pieces. In the face of climate change, it is more important than ever to maintain resiliency, along with continuing to sequester carbon, so that we are not sterilizing our natural areas for future generations.

Broad-stroke accusations and a denial of modern forest stressors such as invasive species, development, and the continuing impact humans have had on the forest for thousands of years have led to a fervent anti-management stance that outwardly rejects research universities, land trusts, and our state scientists.

It’s a dangerous movement that blindly holds up the idea that ceasing cutting would store all the carbon needed to save us, when in fact it would fuel the biggest threats to our woodlands which are permanent land use change and the loss of biodiversity — which, ironically, in the end, could go a long way in ensuring our demise.

Kate LindroosConlin is a resident of Buckland.

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