Activists sign on to letter support Healey’s climate plan, including logging moratorium

  • Wendell State Forest. More than 700 organizations and individuals from across the state, including members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance, have signed a letter to Gov.-elect Maura Healey offering their support for her climate plan, and in particular, her promise to place a moratorium on commercial logging on state-owned forest land. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Local protesters picket the 2019 logging operation at the Wendell State Forest. More than 700 organizations and individuals from across the state, including members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance, have signed a letter to Gov.-elect Maura Healey offering their support for her climate plan, and in particular, her promise to place a moratorium on commercial logging on state-owned forest land. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Wendell State Forest. More than 700 organizations and individuals from across the state, including members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance, have signed a letter to Gov.-elect Maura Healey offering their support for her climate plan, and in particular, her promise to place a moratorium on commercial logging on state-owned forest land. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2022 1:58:05 PM
Modified: 12/23/2022 1:55:21 PM

More than 700 organizations and individuals from across the state, including dozens in western Massachusetts, have signed a letter to Gov.-elect Maura Healey offering their support for her climate plan, and in particular, her promise to place a moratorium on commercial logging on state-owned forest land.

“I’m highly aware of how critical this time is right now and how important trees are in preserving our climate,” said Morning Star Chenven, a member of the Erving Conservation Commission who signed the letter. “I felt it was very important to let the (new) administration know there are many of us who feel this way. I’m devastated when I see what goes on in public lands.”

Two weeks prior to Healey taking office on Jan. 5, the outgoing Baker-Polito administration announced a new climate and energy plan that outlines sector-specific emission reduction targets and policy steps aimed at achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan relies heavily on “electrifying the transportation and building sectors,” according to the State House News Service. The plan also focuses on land conservation and calls for crafting policies to limit the clearing of forests for solar developments.

Healey’s plan, meanwhile, assures that within her first year as governor, she will develop and implement a science-based state forest management plan “that accounts for the impacts of climate change on our forest resources and the role our forests can play in protecting the climate.”

As part of her climate plan, Healey — who recently named Melissa Hoffer, one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top attorneys, to serve in the newly created position of climate chief — has committed to placing a moratorium on commercial harvesting on state-owned, public forest land.

“The letter is really an attempt to have Healey follow through on her campaign pledge,” said Greenfield resident Glen Ayers, a member of the Trees for Public Good Network Steering Committee that drafted the letter.

A moratorium, he explained, would allow time both for legislative rule-making and for establishing a way for the public to protect the land.

“There’s no oversight on the whole system,” he said.

The letter to Healey is a collaborative effort by the Trees as a Public Good Network, a group of activists stemming from an Earth Day forum hosted by an eastern Massachusetts-based group.

“In the process of putting that webinar together, we discovered that trees are being decimated all over the commonwealth, both in urban and suburban and in forest settings,” said Newton resident Melissa Brown, who co-founded the Trees as a Public Good Network. “I think a lot of people think it’s a few trees here and there, but it’s 20 here and 50 there, and 100 there. It’s all over. The amount of climate mitigation work that every mature tree does is mind-numbing.”

She said the group aims to support local actions across the state, while also working together to make changes at the legislative level.

Brown and Ayers both said they were grateful to be addressing the letter to Healey, as opposed to Baker.

“She’s made some strong statement about taking action on climate change,” Brown said.

Speaking both for herself and the Wendell State Forest Alliance, a group that protested the harvesting of trees that were more than 100 years old in an 80-acre oak stand in 2019, Wendell resident Laurel Facey echoed the need for more oversight by way of an advisory board.

“They need to include independent climate scientists who understand the importance of forests and how they sequester carbon,” Facey said, noting that trees should be allowed to remain intact and grow to an old age “because that’s when they’re sequestering the most carbon in the atmosphere.”

Brown noted that trees not only pull carbon from the atmosphere; they also serve as a natural means to prevent flooding and provide shade that can reduce energy bills.

Ayers added that trees help to protect the watershed.

“There isn’t any real part of Franklin County that needs to be logged now or in the next hundred years if we really want to protect those watersheds,” he said.

Another Wendell resident, Jim Thornley, said he’s witnessed logging activity in the Wendell State Forest as well as other state-owned land in western Massachusetts. He said he’s not opposed to wood products and understands there is a place for logging on privately owned lands.

“It’s just really disturbing,” he said. “The trouble with sequestration is two things: it’s not only absorbing the carbon; it’s storing the carbon. The older trees have years and years of more carbon.”

Thornley added he doesn’t think people “really get the idea of the climate crisis we’re in.”

“It’s a real crisis,” he said. “I’m afraid for the human race. The planet is changing, and it’s going to change more rapidly.”

Echoing others, Chenven, who resides in Erving, said she’s hopeful for the incoming administration.

“I feel they have the right attitude about working against climate change,” she said. “I think the more they hear from the constituents, the more likely they are to go ahead with what needs to be done.”

Ayers applauded Hoffer as a “really strong advocate for very good policies” that relate to forest protection.

“We’ve not had any kind of uniform policy that advocates for forest protection,” he said, “especially in relation to the critical role that forests play in climate mitigation.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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