It’s Time to Act: Scientists Back Protection of New England Forests

Cupsuptic Lake Forest Legacy Tract in Maine. Courtesy USFS.

A group of scientists a few weeks ago came out with a report that further supported what we have all already known—New England’s forests need to be protected and they need to be protected now.

The report, authored by Harvard University’s David Foster, called for permanent protection of 90 percent of New England’s 33 million acres of forest, largely in northern Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, states holding the vast majority of forest coverage.

This is not the first time a group has stood behind the conservation of New England forests. In 2008, a commission appointed by the six regional governors came to the same conclusion after hearing calls for concern of severe deforestation that will only continue in years to come.

Maybe it was not enough to hear a government appointed commission ask to “keep forests as forests.” So why not now, after a report from a Harvard led scientist, that says the amount of developed land in New England could still double despite current conservation efforts, are we not acting?

Leanne Klyza Linck, the Director of the Northeast Program here at The Wilderness Society, is asking the same question—what are we waiting for, another study that repeats what we already know?

Here at The Wilderness Society, we are not waiting for a response. There is enough scientific information to verify that the problem with deforestation in New England needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now.

According to Klyza Linck, her regional campaign has always been to protect the heart of the northern forests, 1 million of the 5.8 million acres of forest coverage in New England. Her efforts towards this goal are obvious. Besides offering a place for residents and visitors to hike, canoe, fish and hunt, forests provide a plethora of other recreational, ecological and even economical services. Not to mention they play a vital role in climate change and carbon sequestration.

One way to protect these services is to fight against efforts to surpass the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects inventoried roadless areas in national forests from road building and logging with the exception of some areas.

However, the biggest barrier to protecting our forests, despite their evident benefits, is financial, says Klyza Linck. Yet there are numerous avenues of funding that still can and need to be utilized in the campaign to protect northern forests. The Forest Legacy Program helps preserve working forestlands and protect critical forest resources by providing federal funding for conservation easements and small private land purchases.

Probably the principal means for financial funding to protecting our forests is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is supposed to designate $900 million annually to preserve America’s lands and waters. Yet each year Congress shortchanges the program, which is incidentally funded by oil drilling and leasing.

photo: Cupsuptic Lake Forest Legacy Tract in Maine. Courtesy USFS.