DCR land management review gets sixth public airing

  • State and local politicians and representatives from the Department of Conservation and Recreation tour a parcel of new DCR land off Birnam Road in Northfield in 2016. Residents from across the state, including some locally, joined DCR on Wednesday evening for the last of six public meetings to discuss the 10-year review of the state agency’s land management guidelines. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2022 3:53:44 PM
Modified: 9/16/2022 3:53:15 PM

Residents from across the state, including some locally, joined the Department of Conservation and Recreation Wednesday evening for the last of six public meetings to discuss the 10-year review of the state agency’s land management guidelines.

The review comes 10 years after DCR established three land designations — reserves, parklands and wetlands — each of which carry guidelines for management to reflect their different needs. The review aims to solicit feedback on the clarity of these guidelines, how they work in practice, and how to be responsive to climate resiliency needs, according to DCR Project Manager Jessica Rowcroft.

Over the last six weeks, feedback from the public has included making climate a focus, ensuring accessible trails are present through all three designations, stopping the management of nature and allowing it to manage itself, educating the public about how foresters make decisions, and the need for more research, such as biological surveys.

After about an hour of providing background on the 10-year review and where DCR is now, the group of roughly 50 participants were broken up into different groups to provide additional input.

“There should be an expanded definition of reserves to cover all of the areas, to give them greater protection against logging,” participant Nancy Polan commented. “Not that I’m against logging, but I think it’s time to stop unnecessary logging in our public lands, which really only represents a small portion of our state forests. I’d like to see private forests the center for logging.”

Polan noted that every time a tree is cut, it begins releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while ceasing to remove carbon from the soil.

“DCR is not really operating under the assumption that we are in the middle of a climate emergency,” she said. “(It’s) not operating under the timeline for CO2 emission reduction that we need to meet.”

Fred Heyes, another participant at Wednesday’s meeting, said he understood the concern for meeting the 2050 climate goals, but as a forester, he shared a different perspective.

“It’s fine to talk about storing (carbon) now, but we need a long-term program to allow us to sequester it,” he said. “I’m in support of continued management of a wide range of age classes. I certainly believe large trees store more carbon than a small tree, but a forest of just large trees has less carbon storage than a forest of medium-age trees. If you measure the forest rather than the individual tree, from our point of view, we believe we’re managing correctly on our land.”

Heather Clish asked for clarification on the definition of “exemplary forestry,” and suggested that in the DCR’s review of its guidelines, it is more clearly defined. She also said that, with respect to logging, “it’s critical (DCR) do more research.”

Returning to the subject of forestry and logging, Polan asked for additional accounting for trees that are logged on DCR property.

“Maybe you are keeping track, but the public isn’t aware of it,” she said. “I’m thinking, for example, of the fact that many of the trees logged in the state end up being converted to wood pellets for biomass. Biomass is incredibly terrible for increasing CO2 into the atmosphere.”

She added that it’s time for all DCR facilities to be equipped with solar, wind or geothermal energy.

“Forget this biomass stuff; that has to be stopped immediately,” Polan said.

Peter Church, director of forest stewardship for DCR, said following the public comment stage, the next step will be to develop a draft of the land management guidelines to send to the DCR commissioner for review.

Sept. 28 deadline

Additional feedback is encouraged, with a Sept. 28 deadline for comments. Comments may be submitted online at mass.gov/dcr/public-comment.

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