My Turn: Protect our state forests so they can protect us

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Published: 4/14/2021 4:40:12 PM

Most of us assume that our Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and our state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife are taking care of our state forests and parks. But the public land policies guiding those departments were written over a hundred years ago, before our recognition of the climate crisis and global loss of wildlife. Now we have the chance to conserve the forest ecosystems of our state by adopting two bills now submitted to the current Massachusetts legislative session, HD.2871.Forest Protection Act and HD.3197.Increased Protection of Wildlife Management Areas.

HD.2871 would permanently designate 412,000 acres of state conservation land as parks and reserves, conserving intact systems sustaining themselves by natural processes. HD.3197 would expand the nature reserves in state wildlife management areas, designating at least 30% of these lands as permanent Nature Reserves by 2030, following the latest biological and climate science.

Why are these two bills so important?

■ To avoid catastrophic climate change, we have to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Prime among our strategies for accomplishing this is the preservation of our standing forests.

■Forests will absorb carbon at an accelerating rate the older they grow. If they are logged, most of this carbon will be released. None of the MA state lands has guaranteed protection from logging, including parklands and reserves. HD.2871 asks that about 412,000 of about 650,000 acres of state land, covering 13% of all Massachusetts forests, be protected from logging and protected for carbon sequestration, stretching from the Berkshires to the Atlantic coast.

■Protection of state-owned lands from logging would safeguard our state’s native plant and animal species. Forests protected from logging and development are superior to managed forests in sustaining biodiversity.

■All Massachusetts residents would benefit from these bills, including communities more vulnerable to climate change impacts, coastal areas facing sea-level rise, and urban centers that depend on intact watersheds for their drinking water.

Our Massachusetts forests are our living treasures, protecting us from climate change, preserving native wildlife and habitats, safeguarding soils, providing clean air and water, and offering public recreation. Instead of cutting these trees down, we need to let them stand and allow them to absorb and store carbon at an increasing rate for centuries to come.

Contact your state senators and representatives to pass HD.2871 and HD.3197. Find yours at https://bit.ly/2PUABMo. Also contact and support the two sponsors of these bills, Rep.Michael Finn, Michael.finn@mahouse.gov; Rep.Lindsay Sabadosa, Lindsay.sabadosa@mahouse.gov .

Tela Zasloff is a resident of Williamstown.


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