MONTAGUE — About 40 people convened at the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area this past Saturday where they shared views and learned about forest management during a tour by the citizen-based group Save Massachusetts Forests.
“Our vision about what the world looked like has been destroyed by recent history,” said Bill Stubblefield, a biologist and forest advocate from Wendell.
A Recorder reporter joined the tour to learn more about Save Massachusetts Forests’ opposition to forest management practices by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).
Stubblefield and Michael Kellett, Executive Director of RESTORE: The North Woods gave the tour where they discussed current forest management practices. They explained there is a nationwide movement pushing to clear standing forests to create habitat for young forest species. Kellett said that the Montague Plains is a “poster child” for this method of forestry management, “but the rationale behind it is seriously flawed.”
Stubblefield explained MassWildlife is hoping to create forests full of pitch pines and early succession habitats, but this goal was created on a false notion. They explained the forests of the Northeast before the introduction of Europeans were filled with thickly settled hardwood forests. Then most of the forests were chopped down and the land was used for agriculture and converted back to forests. Only then was the land filled with these early succession habitats.
“This area is highly artificial; it is all the result of former European invasion,” Stubblefield said.
The group said that the type of forest management going on in the Montague Plains requires constant intervention which is financially costly and takes a toll on the environment.
Management of the area requires frequent burning, mowing and the application of herbicides, according to local environmental activist Janet Sinclair. She said that mowing can cost about $300 an acre and the application of herbicides costs about $500 an acre.
Stubblefield, who is in favor of letting forests grow naturally to produce contiguous older growth said this type of management is a practice that needs to go on forever to continue to see the early succession habitat and the use of pesticides is largely ineffective.
“It comes down to a question of what should be done with our public land: should it belong to a priesthood that regurgitates this ideology and has done so for 100 years?” Stubblefield said.
“The idea that maintenance is needed is a problem … It says that nature is useless; only humans can decide what nature should be,” Kellett added.
The group explained that one argument for forest management is that it prevents forest fires. Kellett explained that forest fires were not an issue before Europeans arrived. He also explained that dense forests with large trees are less susceptible to forest fires than the early succession habitats.
“The reality is if you just leave it alone, trees will fall and die and there will be openings naturally,” Kellett said, allowing for the species that the forest management of the area favors.
“All the stuff they are doing is unnecessary, and they drove out the native species that lived here before,” he continued.
The species that MassWildlife claims to be protecting, Kellett argued, are not in danger of going extinct. He went on to say that early successional habitats exist abundantly along power line corridors and that the habitat that is in danger is mature old growth forests far from an edge.
Stubblefield said that the species the state is focusing on protecting are often rare or not originally native to the area. One example he gave was the elfin caterpillar that was recently found and written about in numerous local publications, including the Greenfield Recorder. He noted that the caterpillar is not endangered federally and had been found in catalogs as recently as 2013.
“This has been a rare species forever. The idea that we need to create a special habitat is bogus,” Stubblefield said.
The group made the tour to explain the impetus behind two bills they are advocating for: H.904, An Act To Increase Protection Of Wildlife Management Areas and Hd. 4430, An Act Relative To Forest Protection. More information about the bills can be found on online at savemassforests.com.
“We want to save as much of the living world as possible. It is sacred beyond anything. We have to move away from a paradigm for natural resources to be exploited for private gain to life sources that need to be protected for the common good,” Stubblefield said.
Source : The Recorder