My Turn: Bill would guarantee accountability to existing laws by DCR

  • mactrunk

Published: 4/1/2021 1:28:37 PM

On Feb. 19, HD.3685, An Act to Ensure Accountability and Public Rights Regarding Commercial Tree Harvesting on Commonwealth-owned Lands, from Wendell State Forest Alliance, was filed by state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa. If passed into law this bill would guarantee accountability to existing laws by DCR for any projects they approve, including accountability for environmental impacts, carbon accounting and public participation.

Specifically, it reinforces the mandates of MEPA and the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. It would ensure compliance with CH. 132A sec2B of the MA General Laws which declare it policy that our state owned forests, “… be preserved in their natural state… and that no commercial activities except those essential to the quiet enjoyment of the facilities by the people shall be permitted.” In addition if passed, the new law would allow the public legal right to participate in decisions regarding projects on commonwealth-owned lands, as well as the legal standing required to seek remedy through the courts.

The impetus for this initiative was a 2020 judicial ruling on a lawsuit bought by 29 citizens intended to protect a section of Wendell State Forest from commercial logging. In September 2020, Franklin Superior Court Justice Richard J. Carey dismissed the case without ruling on the merits for two categorical reasons: the issues raised required new or amended legislation; and the people did not have standing for their complaint, asserting that the public has no legal right to intervene on behalf of commonwealth lands. HD.3685 addresses both of these findings.

The authors of HD.3685 feel an urgency to remedy Judge Carey’s findings, as the Commonwealth continues to plan and execute commercial logging in state forests and on other public lands throughout the commonwealth. “During a Climate Emergency no factor in public land use decisions is more critical than the activity’s impacts on global warming. DCR’s practice of commercially logging our state forests destroys carbon sinks and biodiversity essential to remediating the Climate Emergency and to meeting the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. This bill intends to pull heads out of the sand and force them to look at how ‘business as usual’ is failing to respond to the climate emergency we now face,” declared Bill Stubblefield of Wendell.

“These are ‘public lands.’ Therefore, the people must have a seat at the table. HD.3685 will assure the public the legal right to claim that seat” commented Lynn Waldron of Greenfield. “While Massachusetts has some really great laws which could support mitigating climate disruption, we learned the hard way that they have no teeth where our public lands are concerned,” added Greenfield resident Gia Neswald. “DCR claims without reason these laws do not apply to them or to their habitual practice of cutting down our forests.”

The text of this bill can be found at https://bit.ly/3cALGKK. For more information go to wendellforest.org or contact the group at wendellstateforest@gmail.com

Miriam Kurland is a resident of  Williamsburg.


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