Forests for the Future
It's time for a new Greatest Good for the Greatest Number
In the face of the climate and extinction crises, one solution stands above all others: let forests grow.
A tidal wave of scientific research in recent years demonstrates conclusively what many of us have long known in our hearts -- old forests, the natural forests of New England, are superior at supporting native biodiversity and provisioning essential ecosystem services, including carbon storage, flood-risk reduction, water quality enhancement, and more. Why, then, are only 3% of New England's forests managed as wildlands, maximizing biodiversity and ecosystem services?
New England’s intact forests are the region’s greatest natural asset in the fight against climate change. And yet, a century and a half since New England was 80% deforested by European settlers, our forests are still in the early stages of recovery. Today, less than 1/10 of 1% of our landscape resembles the complex, interconnected, biodiverse forests that evolved over millennia alongside our region’s sophisticated indigenous cultures. Elk, caribou, wolverine, wolves, catamounts, and salmon, once common in many parts of New England, have either been entirely eliminated or have long since failed to naturally reproduce. By any historical or objective measure of ecosystem health, our ecosystems remain in the ICU.
The world's leading scientists are calling for at least 30% of the Earth's surface to be protected as wildlands to maintain and restore biodiversity, with another 20% managed as climate stabilization areas to sequester and store carbon. Public lands -- managed for public benefit and harboring New England's largest blocks of intact forests and wetlands -- are the foundation for our wilder future.
Future generations are counting on us to see beyond ourselves. It's up to us to decide how our public lands should be managed to overcome the climate and extinction crises.