Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Genevieve Fraser: Diseased Trees in Massachusetts Forests Need Biomass Thinning

Diseased Trees in Massachusetts Forests Need Biomass Thinning
By Genevieve Fraser

A harbinger of things to come.  Visit:
Mike Leonard, a Massachusetts forester, recently posted the following on his Facebook page: "Cruised a 90 acre woodlot in Deerfield today for a new Forest Mgt. Plan. Did the last plan 10 years ago. Since then, the infestation of hemlock wooly adelgid has exploded! The woodlot is about 1/2 hemlock and a mix of sugar maple, white pine, birch, oak, hickory, and other hardwoods. I would have liked to have done an improvement cutting but no pulp or biomass markets around there." 

Are we collectively turning a blind eye because of the political ramifications if proper steps are taken? What is the state's response?? Apparently, to do nothing. 

This is like a cancer in the middle of our forests. Do we turn away and let nature take its course... wait for massive forest fires, as some "naturalists" suggest, that would clean it out? What about ramifications of forest fires such as massive releases of unmitigated carbon into the atmosphere...or greenhouse gases released through decomposition? Shouldn't that be factored into a response? 

Though it may be too late to clear-cut a barrier, crowded suppressed trees are most susceptible to damage, and thinning is probably prudent to increase vigor and delay their demise. That sounds like a solid plan of action. 

But unless the construction of biomass plants are encouraged by allowing non-soil based RECs for disease-ridden trees, there is little financial incentive to implement such a plan. So, the likelihood is that the state of the Massachusetts forest will continue to drift towards an increasing supply of disease-ridden trees, with no-remedy to be found, due to a lack of political will to counter those enthralled with aesthetics instead of the over-all health of the forest!

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