Protecting Old Growth Forests
An Act Authorizing the Establishment of Old Growth Forest Reserves
H.856 • S.557
Sponsored by Representative Natalie Blais (Sunderland)
Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are only protected from timber cutting by administrative policies that could change at any time. This bill provides much-needed permanent, lawful protection for the last stands of ancient trees found on state lands.
Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and serve as "living laboratories" where students, scientists, and the public can learn more about forest development, tree genetics and climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts' 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest.
These ancient groves are scattered throughout the state in small patches, with most on the steep mountainsides of Western Massachusetts managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The value of these rapidly disappearing old-growth forests to people and wildlife is immeasurable; in forests that have not been disturbed for hundreds of years, canopy layers and fallen trees create rich and diverse habitats for many species of birds, insects and reptiles. These areas also act as carbon sinks– helping to sequester global warming gases.
This bill would:
- Protect old-growth forests from logging and development by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands.
- Require an inventory of the forests on state-owned land to determine the extent and condition of old-growth forest stands and their surrounding landscapes.
- Include an assessment and selection of future old-growth forest areas that exhibit characteristics which, if left undisturbed, would meet the definition of an old-growth forest.
- Prohibit new development, new or expanded recreational facilities, and commercial timber cutting in old-growth forest.
- Establish a research and education program to monitor the status and promote understanding of old-growth forest reserves.