Guest Columnist Bart Bouricius: Commercial logging in state forests is not climate friendly

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Posted: 12/27/2021 17:00:17 PM

Modified: 12/27/2021 16:59:51 PM

Judging by Michael Mauri’s recent opinion piece (“The Question Is How to Manage State Forests,” December 11), I think he, and perhaps others who make their living designing logging projects, are confused about the content of Bills 912 and 1002. These bills would only protect state forests, the “common wealth” held by citizens of the state. These bills do not propose to restrict logging on more than 80% of our forests which are privately owned. H.912 and H.1002 are said to preserve less than 20% of Massachusetts’ forests.

Mr Mauri and I agree that part of the forest should be preserved in its natural state. The question is how much.

Mr. Mauri justifies commercial logging as a management tool by saying that it is analogous to the practices of the indigenous peoples of North America before colonization. This drew a response from Nohham Cachat, who is researching Indigenous traditions and whose family is indigenous to what is now western Massachusetts. In a letter to the Greenfield Recorder, Mr. Cachat said: “It is time for non-natives to stop rewriting our history to meet their needs. He also notes that “… we have not significantly burned the earth in western Massachusetts” and that traditionally “very little wood” is used.

Mr. Mauri writes: “… it would be foolish not to take care of our forests. Once again I agree. However, “taking care” of our state forests using the blunt instrument of commercial logging and its massive 60,000 to 90,000 pound soil and little creature-crushing machines is far from serving the best interests of the people. forests. Mr. Mauri then says “doing nothing is a narrow approach that can never meet all of our needs.” As we experience the worsening effects of climate change, many would agree that our primary “need” is to have a planet that is livable, for ourselves and for the other beings who share our earth.

Any logging causes an immediate release of carbon into the atmosphere. But an even worse effect is the loss of the ability of our forests to store enough carbon in the short time required to mitigate climate change. In fact, after logging, forests become net emitters of carbon dioxide for up to 20 years.

Even when the forest begins to recover and begins to absorb a little more carbon than it releases, it will not come close to the amount it could have absorbed had it been left alone. Undisturbed, trees and soil will continue to store ever increasing amounts of carbon as the forest grows, and may continue to store large amounts of carbon for hundreds of years.

So why are young forests unable to store as much carbon as mature forests? It’s pretty straightforward, really. Short trees with small circumferences cannot store much in their small trunks, and the majority of young trees will die during the forest’s natural succession process. When it comes to accumulating carbon, young trees are insignificant compared to canopy trees with large circumferences.

Several researchers have taken measurements that show, for example, that a white pine 40 to 50 inches in diameter can store the same amount of carbon as half an acre of 12-inch diameter pine. Dr James Lutz and his research team have collected data showing that globally, 50% of a forest’s carbon is stored in the largest 1% of trees. It is therefore these large, older trees that are important to preserve in response to climate change.

Readers following this discussion may have noticed that the critical responses to my original opinion piece came from people who have a financial interest in logging or who have received grants from agencies that promote logging. forestry and pesticides as main management tools.

The most efficient machines at removing carbon from the atmosphere quickly enough and in the amounts needed to mitigate climate change are our living, undisturbed forests. Nothing else comes close. We must allow our forests to remove the excess carbon that has already been emitted into our atmosphere, and which threatens our living planet.

The bills I am proposing would preserve less than 20% of our state’s forests. There is more than enough private forest land left for logging. It is not necessary to have commercial logging in forests that are collectively owned by the citizens of Massachusetts. So please ask your state officials and senators to support the H.912 and H.1002 Forest Preservation Bills. And while you’re at it, ask them to also support H.1003 which provides for greater public participation in decisions about our state forests and demands greater transparency from the agencies that manage them.

Bart Bouricius is a retired adjunct professor and emerging tree researcher living in Montague. He is a former resident of Amherst.


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