Logging in Wendell State Forest ‘substantially completed’

  • Hemingway Road in Wendell State Forest, as seen in April Staff File Photo 

Staff Writer
Published: 10/7/2019 9:45:11 PM
Modified: 10/7/2019 9:45:07 PM

WENDELL — Despite a year’s worth of protesting, circulating petitions and even bringing the state to court, the Wendell State Forest Alliance was unsuccessful in its efforts to halt a local logging project.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR’s) logging of an 80-acre old oak stand in Wendell State Forest has been “substantially completed,” according to a department spokeswoman, with only final clean-up work remaining.

“Working with its contractor, (DCR) substantially completed a timber harvest within Wendell State Forest in the town of Wendell on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019,” Olivia K. Dorrance said. “The work that remains includes restoring the log landing area and skid roads, such as the reseeding of grass, and the final removal of the remaining timber.”

Despite their disappointment, protesters say they are committed to defending other state forests.

“It is with deep sadness that we must accept that DCR has completed its logging project in Wendell State Forest, leaving the disturbing ruins of the once precious and beautiful wild area,” said Wendell State Forest Alliance’s Miriam Kurland. “Wendell State Forest Alliance, however, has made a unanimous decision to continue its work to protect other publicly owned state forests from commercial logging.”

Since last fall, the group of locals calling themselves the Wendell State Forest Alliance has implored DCR to stop the project through a variety of means — picketing, letters to the governor, even several arrests for physically attempting to stop loggers.

With letters of intent to sue having been delivered to the department, the agency has commented little on the protests. However, DCR Commissioner Leo Roy, in a visit with the Wendell Selectboard last year, described the project as a selective logging project that is best for continued forest health.

In addition to the forest’s recreational value and concern for native species, like the rare Jefferson salamander residing in the forest, the Wendell State Forest Alliance’s main issue with the project concerns climate change.

Citing reports from the U.N. and other agencies, the protesters have pointed out that old, large trees — like those that were cut in Wendell — sequester more carbon than younger trees. Therefore, preserving old forests is an important tactic in maximizing carbon sequestration to combat climate change and global warming.

However, Roy said DCR’s position is that having forests consisting of trees of varying ages maximizes carbon sequestration by having a constant flow of trees reaching their peak carbon-sequestering ages. Therefore, cutting trees and diversifying forests is what’s best, he said.

In Franklin County Superior Court in August, protesters said the logging project would cause them “irreparable harm” by damaging the forest’s recreational value, and said they had been left out of any public input process for the project. They subsequently asked Judge Michael Callan to grant a “preliminary injunction,” which would halt the project pending a future trial, but Callan denied their request.

Assistant Attorney General Kendra Kinscherf, who represented the state in court, argued that the project is necessary to eliminate diseased trees in the area that could be dangerous to forest health and also “a concern for the safety of the people who enjoy that area.” Kinscherf also said the protesters’ claims that they were unable to provide input were false, and DCR allowed a 45-day public comment period, during which it reviewed “extensive” comments from the protesters.

According to Kurland, despite the bad news in court and the project’s virtual completion, the group will continue its activism. She said the next step is to push for proposed legislation that would protect all Massachusetts public forests from commercial logging to be passed, specifically House No. 897.

“(Wendell State Forest Alliance) is also pursuing legal actions to stop DCR from continuing its logging operations due to what we see as insufficient and illegal procedures and lack of response to communication requests,” Kurland said. “Some members who were arrested while protecting the forest will be declaring necessity defenses for their charges and requesting lists of discovery for their trials.”

Kurland said the group will continue to “educate and inform people about the importance of keeping our state forests wild, especially in areas where future logging projects are being announced. We will work with allied groups, scientists and individuals to develop presentations, articles and videos filled with information about the newest scientific discoveries about the integrated life within the forests.”

“Witnessing the destruction at Wendell State Forest has fueled the fire,” she added. “We join groups in the great global expansion to protect our planet from destructive extractive industries that are causing extinction and climate catastrophe.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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