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The Argument: Should Massachusetts adopt a moratorium on commercial harvesting on state-owned forest land?

Read two views and vote in our poll below.



Melissa Brown

Cofounded Trees as a Public Good Network; member, steering committee of Our Revolution Massachusetts Climate Crisis Working Group; Newton resident

Melissa Brown

Governor Maura Healey’s campaign promise to pause logging on state-owned forest land is the right thing to do. Forest management should be based on current science, not wood industry marketing. Public forest management should comply with recent state legislation mandating net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The science is clear that trees can help stabilize climate, but only if we stop cutting them down and interfering with their growth. Trees clean and cool the air, reduce flooding and soil erosion, filter the water entering our water supplies, provide wildlife habitat, and sequester carbon.


Forests provide more life-saving, biodiversity-preserving ecoservices than the sum of their individual trees. New England is heating up faster than the overall planet. So protecting our forests is crucial to keeping life livable here.

Old-growth forests provide significantly more ecoservices than “young” forests. So why do our state agencies take bids from the wood industry to log hundreds or more acres of public-owned land each year when logging prevents young forests from maturing into old-growth forests? Why does MassWildlife, for example, propose to protect only 10 percent to 15 percent of the 170,000 public-owned acres it manages in reserves with no logging?

Claims that reducing mature forests is needed to prevent wildfires and wildlife declines —especially game species — and to sequester carbon are unfounded. We are not in arid California, and comparisons to the 1960s, when game species were at very high levels, are misleading. Older trees store and sequester more carbon than younger ones. Undisturbed forest soil also stores carbon as well as containing millions of tiny species with untapped medical potential.

The public does not like forest clearing, especially not to benefit private interests. So logging promoters follow marketing recommendations and mask aggressive logging and clear-cutting with euphemisms such as “barrens restoration” and “patch cutting.” Such marketing deserves the same scrutiny we give to Big Oil’s climate-change messaging.


Once forests are cut — if allowed to recover — it takes 100 or more years to restore ecoservices. To halt the pace of global warming, we need to stop logging public lands now. This pause will not touch loggers’ livelihoods because 79 percent of Massachusetts’ forests are not public lands.

Governor Healey must enact a moratorium to bring public forest management into compliance with current science and state law.


Chris Egan

Executive director, Massachusetts Forest Alliance, based in Marlborough; Burlington resident

Chris Egan

Massachusetts state forests are divided into recreational parks, forest reserves, and managed woodlands. Forest science is increasingly coalescing around this mix of forest reserves and forests managed with climate-smart forestry techniques — combined with building more with wood instead of carbon-intensive concrete and steel — as the best strategy for maximizing carbon sequestration and storage over time.

These conclusions are outlined in the Highstead Foundation’s New England’s Climate Imperative, the New England Forestry Foundation’s 30 Percent Climate Solution, the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, and many other research publications.

The term “commercial harvesting” can be misleading. In this context, it actually means all forest management activities. We believe the proposed moratorium would likely prevent any forest management except for immediate public safety needs.


This would mean that the state Department of Conservation & Recreation could not remove dead and dying red pine plantations in state forests to release the native mixed-species younger forest growing underneath. MassWildlife would be prevented from managing forest habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered plants and animals in its Wildlife Management Areas. And the Division of Water Supply Protection would be barred from forest management to increase resilience to severe weather to protect the Quabbin Reservoir’s water quality.

We believe in careful forest stewardship on state lands, in a mix of reserves and forest actively managed using the best comprehensive science. Many of Massachusetts’s leading environmental organizations also favor forest management on state-owned lands; Their Climate and Environmental Policy Briefing Book says, “Both forest reserves . . . and sustainably managed forests . . . are important and appropriate on both private and public forest lands in Massachusetts.”

Last December, leaders of The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts office, Mass Audubon, and the Trustees of Reservations wrote an open letter to then Governor-elect Maura Healey in Commonwealth Magazine about the need for nature-based climate solutions. In it they said, “We also must manage both public and privately-owned forests through a mix of forest reserves and managed forests, including sustainable timber harvesting. This balanced approach is needed to meet state and landowner climate, biodiversity, and economic goals.”

The reason so many prestigious environmental organizations join us in supporting forest management on state-owned lands is simple: The science supports it. We hope the Healey-Driscoll Administration will continue science-based forest management.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact