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Citizens group objects to Wendell logging project

  • Wendell State Forest FILE PHOTO

  • Wendell State Forest FILE PHOTO

  • Wendell State Forest FILE PHOTO

Published: 5/9/2018 11:03:01 PM
Modified: 5/9/2018 11:03:10 PM

WENDELL — A group of citizens is objecting to a Wendell State Forest logging project, saying it doesn’t like the impact the work would have on the area’s mature oak forest.

During a recent tour of the proposed Wendell State Forest-Brook Road logging project, led by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, a number of concerned citizens called for the project to be canceled. They say the DCR has violated its own guidelines in failing to fully consider the potential impacts of the logging project on climate change, wildlife habitats, cultural sites and public recreation.

The proposal for the timber harvest at Wendell State Forest began in February 2016, according to the DCR.

“In 2016, almost two dozen organizations and individuals expressed serious concerns about the Wendell logging plan, because it would worsen climate change and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Michael Kellet, executive director of RESTORE: The North Woods, a nonprofit in Massachusetts. “But, DCR made no effort to address our concerns. Based on these deficiencies alone, DCR should withdraw this plan and go back to the drawing board.”

Troy Wall, DCR spokesman, said timber harvest projects are “thoroughly reviewed” by professionals, including the Department of Fish and Game, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the DCR’s Upland Ecologist, DCR park operations staff, and the Department’s Cultural Resource Office’s Archaeologist.

“The Commonwealth is proud of its creative and aggressive approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and continues to implement selective forest management projects in an effort to promote the health of woodlands and diverse habitat across the state, and increase forest resilience to climate change impacts,” he said.

Wall also noted on March 31, 2016, the DCR held a public meeting regarding the proposal for the project. But citizens are still concerned.

“This portion of Wendell State Forest has not been logged in over 110 years,” said Wendell resident James Thornley. “It includes a stately, 80-acre old oak forest that is just beginning to reach an old-growth condition — something that is rare in Massachusetts. Located between the two ponds, this forest is one of the most visited and cherished areas in the state forest, and we want it to remain exactly as it is — untouched by human interference. But if this project is not stopped, our beautiful forest will be cut down in November 2018.”

Further issues have been raised, for instance, in April, Wendell Historical Commission wrote a letter to DCR contending that if this logging project is allowed to go forward, it will cause irreparable damage to sensitive cultural sites in the area. The letter states that DCR has failed to adhere to its own cultural resources policies and guidelines, including: “Within Woodlands, large areas of sensitive resources (to protect areas of historical and cultural significance) will be not be included in project prescriptions and will be effectively reserved or excluded from harvesting by their exclusion from the silvicultural prescription. … to prevent irreparable damage to the important irreplaceable cultural resources in question, we … claim that a complete halt to the improperly conceived Book Road Logging Project is warranted.”

Concerned citizens have created a “Save the Brook Road Forest” petition and Facebook page, which call for halting this logging project and preserving the forest for the public benefit, said Thornley. More than 300 people have signed the petition, he said, which will be sent to state officials.

Opponents of the logging project say DCR has had ample opportunity to restore proper adherence to its clearly stated policies, yet it has failed to do so. They contend that DCR has failed to establish a forest “Resource Management Plan” for the Eastern Connecticut Valley region (of which Wendell State Forest is a part) — which should be complete before any logging projects are developed; ignored guidelines calling for protecting large “ecologically or culturally significant areas” from logging and; disregarded the guideline that DCR “shall provide for the stewardship of all known and potential cultural resources on DCR property.”

“Instead of logging this forest, it should be permanently protected,” said Kellett. “It should be allowed to continue absorbing and storing carbon to fight climate change, providing rare interior forest habitats that are vital to imperiled plant and animal species and offering people the chance to connect with nature and our cultural heritage.”

Citizens opposing the Wendell State Forest-Brook Road logging plan are urging DCR Commissioner, Leo Roy, and DCR Stewardship Committee Chair, Whitney Hatch, to cancel the project and require DCR staff to develop a new management plan with full public involvement, which properly responds to the concerns that have been raised by dozens of Massachusetts citizens.

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