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Massachusetts loggers to state: 'Real tough time' with no contracts. Others want forests preserved.

A view through the trees at Skinner State Park in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
A view through the trees at Skinner State Park in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said it will "soon" issue a plan to incorporate recommendations from a committee of scientists on how to steward state forests to address climate change.

The Climate Forestry Committee released a state-commissioned report in early January that analyzed how to manage state-owned forests to help Massachusetts meet its greenhouse gas emissions limit of net zero by 2050. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and then store it.

When the report was issued, the environmental office said it was ending a year-long pause on new logging contracts on state land and would put out new forestry projects to bid by spring.

But Chris Egan, from the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, said no new harvesting projects have gone out to bid since the end of 2022. He said the only state-issued invitation to bid was for removal of a pile of previously cut wood in the Wachusett Reservoir Watershed.

Egan said loggers are suffering and the loss of state contracts has taken a toll on small logging businesses that are a key part of the rural economy.

"Our hope is there'll be a lot of projects released and that people can start working again. Because it's been a real tough time for timber harvesters in Massachusetts," Egan said.

The state said it is reviewing projects to see how they align with the committee's recommendations.

Janet Sinclair works with Save Massachusetts Forests, a project of RESTORE: The North Woods. She said her group wants the state to address climate change and biodiversity by leaving state forests alone.

"We're hoping going forward is that there's much less logging on state land, that much more land is put into reserves and that the these reserves are made permanent," Sinclair said.

In a statement the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs thanked the public and the Climate Forestry Committee for the recommendations and said, "...we are dedicated to incorporating this input on how climate change should be reflected in our work and providing a consistent and predictable framework for state land management that recognizes all our important values and uses of forest land."

The agency did not give an exact date for sharing a detailed work plan, but said it is looking forward to doing so soon.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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