UMass Press Release: “New England Losing Forest Cover, Experts Call for Accelerated Conservation”

From the UMass Amherst Office of News & Media Relations:

New England Losing Forest Cover, Experts Call for Accelerated Conservation

May 19, 2010

Contact: Janet Lathrop

AMHERST, Mass. – A group of 20 scholars from across New England including University of Massachusetts Amherst forester David Kittredge today released a new report, “Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape,” which calls for retaining 70 percent of the New England landscape in forests overall.

Though New England forests have experienced a great recovery over the past 200 years, recently, for the first time in modern history, forest cover is declining in all six New England states, the authors say. Their vision would triple the amount of conserved land in New England while still leaving room for future development. They call for conserving most of the landscape, 63 percent, as working woodlands owned and managed by private landowners, and for protecting a smaller seven percent as wildland reserves.

As the state extension forester at UMass Amherst, Kittredge regularly communicates with and assists individuals and families who make decisions about family-owned woodlots, where about 70 percent of Massachusetts forest land is held. He says the main threat to forests in the Commonwealth is change of use, for example, from woodlot or forest to development via parcelization. In this sense, “kitchen table talks are crucial,” he adds, to help owners understand the consequences of their choices.

“We must talk to these private families and individuals if we want to pursue easements, forest land protection or any plan,” Kittredge points out. “Our vision can’t be accomplished by the stroke of a governor’s pen.” The Wildlands and Woodlands report is recommending that “we make sure we don’t wake up one day 50 years from now to find that our forest is gone. Let’s talk around the kitchen tables of Massachusetts before that happens,” the forester adds.

The vision report was produced by the Harvard Forest of Harvard University, and represents research findings in forest science, policy, and finance from across the region. It was released at a web press conference hosted by the Harvard Forest and later the same day was introduced in a speech by Theodore Roosevelt IV at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

More Information

Wildlands and Woodlands report

See also:

Earth Day Photo Essay: Spring Buds in the North Street Woods (4/22/09)

Topographical Map Shows How Kohl Condo Proposal Will Eat Into a Rare Stand of Mature Trees in Downtown

State Offers Funds to Help Conserve North Street Woods 

MA Secy of Energy and Environmental Affairs: Urban Parks Deserve Protection as do Habitat Reserves and Working Landscapes

Boston Globe: “How the city hurts your brain”
Natural settings are full of objects that automatically capture our attention, yet without triggering a negative emotional response — unlike, say, a backfiring car. The mental machinery that directs attention can relax deeply, replenishing itself…

Boston Urban Forest Coalition Aims to Plant 100,000 Trees

Massachusetts Audubon: The Value of Floodplain Forests
Floodplain forest…is a disappearing ecological treasure… [Their] cyclical flooding regime continually refertilizes the floodplain and nourishes the well-adapted trees and understory…

“Apart from preserving ecological habitat, a wildlife corridor, and a greenway,” says Blunt, “the DCR has some very practical reasons for restoring these [floodplain forests along the Connecticut River].” The broad areas of the floodplain forest are natural water-storage areas. During significant floods—and such events can occur any time of the year—water overspreads the flat wetlands and loses velocity. The trees act as filter strips, holding back sediments and reducing the extent of downstream damage…

“Putting housing [in the Belmont Uplands] would be totally un-smart growth,” says FAR’s Ellen Mass. “Basically, the people living here would be surrounded by a mosquito marsh.”

Northampton Open Space Plan: “This loss of habitat and natural flood buffering areas is Northampton’s most serious environmental problem” The Breath of Trees Is Good for You
…I am breathing deeply of a forest gift that I had forgotten: the air! Americans have largely ignored this dimension of the forest’s allure, but the Japanese recognize it and have a name for it: shinrin-yoku, wood-air bathing. Japanese researchers have discovered that when diabetic patients walk through the forest, their blood sugar drops to healthier levels. The Japanese have hosted whole symposiums on the benefits of wood-air bathing and walking…

So what could be in the forest air that makes us feel better? In a study done in the Sierra Nevadas of California, researchers found 120 different chemical compounds—but they could only identify seventy of them! We are literally breathing things we don’t understand; which also means, of course, that when we lose these forests, we don’t know what we are losing…

The most abundant compounds given off by trees are monoterpenes. There has been a great deal of research done on dietary monoterpenes, and the good news is that they have been shown to both prevent and cure cancer. Many chemotherapy drugs contain monoterpenes. Lemon rinds, in particular, are high in monoterpenes. I could find no research, however, on the effects of inhaling monoterpenes…

Perhaps someday, when your physician asks you to “take a deep breath,” it will be the old-growth air that he or she is referring to.

I hope you don’t have to drive too far to reach it.

Irony of Infill: You Have to Drive to Enjoy Nature
A key assumption built into infill is that walking access to amenities associated with civilization takes priority over walking access to nature. If developers are permitted to aggressively pave over green spaces downtown, more residents will be compelled to drive if they want to enjoy parks and woods. Most likely their overall time spent in ‘unbuilt’ environments will decrease.