The tragedy of public land logging in New England

Contrary to what the timber industry would like you to think, a healthy forest does not require logging. In fact, the secret ingredients to a healthy New England forest are time and space to grow.

The vast majority of New England's original forests developed over millennia with minimal human disturbance. A healthy New England forest relies on the complex interplay of wind and ice and the handiwork of beavers. Modern forestry stunts the growth of our native forests, preventing them from maturing beyond their teenage years. 

 

Because of historic and ongoing logging, median forest age is approximately 75 years in New England, which is only about 25–35% of the average lifespan of many of the common tree species in our forests. New England's forests are impoverished of the time it takes for them to become fully functioning ecosystems.

Current and Planned Logging in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest

Increased logging and clear-cutting in the Green Mountain National Forest is occurring and more is planned. These plans will degrade our forests and air quality, destroy scenic beauty and increase carbon emissions. Logging on the Green Mountain National Forest is proposed within eight different inventoried roadless areas, a Congressionally-designated National Recreation Area, and along the boundaries of Congressionally-designated wilderness areas.

Logging%20in%20RIRP_edited.jpg

Source: The 2018 Vermont Conservation Design report by the Agency of Natural Resources

MAP OF CURRENT AND PLANNED LOGGING
GMNF logging ANR Atlas color imagary 201

Map Key:

GREEN - Robinson Integrated Resource project (10,315 acres to be logged)

RED - Early Successional Habitat Creation Project

(15,000 acres to be logged)

PURPLE - Somerset Integrated Resource Project (9,854 acres to be logged)


BLUE - South of Rt 9 Integrated Resource Project

(8,271 acres to be logged)

This represents a

TOTAL OF 43,440 acres,

or 68 square miles,

or 33,000 football fields, 
that will soon be logged!

Photos from Current Logging in the GMNF, Fall 2020

Current forest protection and management in Vermont:

In Vermont, as in New England as a whole, only approximately 2% of the land area is permanently managed to become old forest, for the benefit of biodiversity, clean water, and carbon storage, with logging and other resource extraction prohibited (Moomaw et al, 2019). This includes wilderness areas on the Green Mountain National Forest, state natural areas like the summits of Camels Hump and Mt. Mansfield, as well as private lands with a forever-wild conservation easement.

Approximately 20% of Vermont’s forestland is publicly owned. These public lands are split between federal (11%, primarily the US Forest Service but also the US Fish and Wildlife Service), state (8%, primarily the Depts of Forests, Parks and Recreation and Fish and Wildlife) and municipal (1%) management. Vermont’s public lands constitute the largest blocks of conserved forest in Vermont, and are held and managed in the public trust.

Of the 80% of Vermont that is privately owned, only a small fraction is permanently protected from resource extraction and managed for biodiversity and ecosystem services with a forever-wild conservation easement.

A 2018 report by the State of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, “Vermont Conservation Design” (VCD), calls for 9% of Vermont’s forests to be managed to become “old forest.” The VCD report states that “Although there are small patches of old forest scattered around the state, old forest is absent in Vermont as a functional component of the landscape. In most forests, passive restoration will result in old forest conditions. In some cases, active forest management may be beneficial to promote forest composition and structure suitable for subsequent passive restoration."

2 Moomaw WR, Masino SA and Faison EK (2019) Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good. Front. For. Glob. Change 2:27.doi:10.3389/ffgc.2019.00027

3 Loeb and D’Amato (2020). Large landscape conservation in a mixed ownership region: opportunities and barriers for putting the pieces together. Biological Conservation https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108462

4 Ibid

5 Zaino et al (2018). Vermont Conservation Design – Natural Community and Habitat Technical Report.

6 Final Report, Vermont Forest Carbon Sequestration Working Group (Jan 2020)

7 Keeton, W. S., Whitman, A. A., McGee, G. C., and Goodale, C. L. (2011). Late-successional biomass development in northern hardwood-conifer forests of the Northeastern United States. Forest Sci. 57, 489–505. doi:

10.1093/forestscience/57.6.489

8 Harris, N. L., Hagen, S. C., Saatchi, S. S., Pearson, T. R. H.,Woodall, C.W., Domke, G.M., et al. (2016). Attribution of net carbon change by disturbance type across forest lands of the conterminous