Guest columnist Bart Bouricius: The destructive arrogance of habitat management

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Posted: 11/25/2021 15:02:21 PM

Modified: 11/25/2021 15:02:05

Modern humans have only evolved from their primate ancestors in the past hundreds of thousands of years. The first forest ecosystems with real trees emerged hundreds of millions of years ago and managed themselves. The idea that humans must “manage” nature as “resources” within an industrial economic system is only a few hundred years old.

Some now argue that all of nature should be “managed” in this way, despite the mass extinction and climate disruption caused by such management. In response to the dire consequences of this mining system, prominent Harvard biologist EO Wilson argued that we must leave half the earth untouched, to manage itself.

In a May article in “Frontiers in Forests and Global Change,” Robert Leverett and his co-authors note that the world’s forests “store carbon and reduce annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 30%”, and if they are not disturbed, forest recovery could almost close the entire carbon loss gap “between [human caused] emission and absorption rate.

The Massachusetts Fish and Game Department’s “management” of land focuses on extracting resources from the natural environment, whether they are game, fish or wood products. Because of this narrow focus, the ministry appears unable to respond to climate change with the necessary focus on natural carbon capture and storage that the climate emergency requires.

The Department’s Fisheries and Wildlife Division (DFW) repeatedly praises the fact that more carbon is stored each year on the land it manages than is harvested. But justifying extractive management in this way is far from being an adequate response to the climate crisis we are facing today.

We need to drastically reduce logging on public lands. Unused forests store more carbon and harbor more biodiversity than any logging regime. In addition, as climate change already underway will increase the rate of natural disturbance, human disturbance is expected to decrease accordingly. Unfortunately, DFW fails to seriously account for carbon from its logging projects, such as the gigantic clearcuts and biomass burning associated with clearcuts at Muddy Brook in Hardwick, and Wildlife Management Areas. Herman Covey and Birch Hill, to name a few. See this detailed document for photos and information: maforests.org/DFW.pdf/.

Such management by logging releases most of the carbon in tens of thousands of acres of forested land into the atmosphere. The agency also plans to eventually cut 86% of all DFW forests in turn to create “young forest habitat,” meaning that much of their more than 200,000 acres of managed land will store much less. of carbon only if it were allowed to continue to grow.

DFW provided $ 307,631 in 2019 (the most recent data available) in the form of grants to private landowners, much of it for commercial logging projects aimed at creating young forest habitats (stumps and brush ). This continued destruction of old growth forests prevents them from becoming old growth forests, which now make up less than 0.05% of our state’s forests. Old-growth forests with very large trees are extremely rich in carbon and biodiversity, and ensuring their increase should be a conservation priority.

Logging transforms areas of living forest actively accumulating carbon into net sources of carbon dioxide for years as the remaining biomass decomposes, and it takes decades to replenish the carbon stores removed in the process. . Harvesting, transporting and manufacturing forest products also comes with carbon emissions that must be taken into account, and only a tiny fraction of the products produced last for long periods of time.

Left alone, our forests can continue to accumulate carbon for centuries, and we cannot afford to waste this short-term earning capacity in the face of an increasingly severe climate emergency.

The Baker administration has proposed that 50% of the state’s carbon emission reduction targets be met by purchasing carbon offsets from other states, rather than maximizing forest carbon accumulation here.

Governments or companies buy these credits in order to continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Renowned forest ecologist Charles Canham notes that existing carbon credit markets offer “no real offsets for greenhouse gas emissions” and that “market failures are structural and profound, and may be irremediable.” Canham’s analysis can be found here: caryinstitute.org/news-insights/feature/rethinking-forest-carbon-offsets/.

The future is ours. Please ask your state officials to support these Forest Preservation Bills: H.912, Forest Protection Act and H.1002, Enhanced Protection of Wildlife Management Areas Act.

Bart Bouricius, a member of the Wendell Forest Alliance, lived in Amherst for 25 years before moving to Montague.


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