V. How are they being managed?
The Massachusetts Department
of Environmental Management's (DEM) Division of Forests and Parks manages
old-growth forests on state lands. Old-growth forests
in Massachusetts have not received much management in the past. Because
old-growth stands tended to be inaccessible and to contain trees of low
economic value, the forests where not thought to be in danger of human
disturbance. Since at least 1992, old-growth forests on state lands
have been designated as Representative Natural Areas. DEM's stated
policy has been to leave these stands undisturbed; logging is prohibited
|The Official Policy
A recent increase in interest in Massachusetts old-growth forest has
led DEM to draft a more detailed policy for old-growth. The policy
aims to "preserve and maintain the integrity of existing old-growth stands"
and to manage secondary forests for old-growth attributes (DEM, unpublished).
One of the ways it does this is by establishing buffers around old-growth
stands where other land uses do not conflict. Practically, this means
that no manipulation is permitted in old-growth stands. Special permits
are also required for research in old-growth. The policy was approved
by the Board of the DEM in July 1999. To receive a copy of this policy,
contact Ruth Dinerman, 413-443-0011 ext. 11.
Some old-growth forest is found on private lands, where it has no official
|Dealing with Development
DEM's commitment to protecting old-growth forest has recently been tested
by development interests. Wachusett
Mountain Associates (WMA), a skiing company which leases state land
for its operations, requested permission to add ski trails. Permission
for one of the trails was denied when, in the winter of 1995, researchers
discovered an old-growth stand in its path.
After a long approval process, DEM is allowing the WMA to go ahead with
plans for a snowboard park near the old-growth area. This is unfortunate
because the area, though small, could have provided some buffer for the
adjacent old-growth. Even if WMA does not construct trails through
the old-growth, there is concern that other operations, such as the laying
of snowmaking pipe, could disturb the old-growth.
However, during the winter of 1998, unknown villains entered the old-growth
stand and used chainsaws to cut a ski trail illegally. The ski bums
cut saplings and branches and moved rocks, compacting the forest floor
and letting light into the dark forest floor. The WMA says that it
knew nothing about this illegal activity. Environmentalists say that
the ski area should not be permitted to expand if it cannot prevent illegal
actions with its current level of operations.
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