|Dicken Crane at a barn raising|
Regaining Opportunities Lost in Rural Economies
By Dicken Crane
Have you ever watched a dog drop its treat to grab the one tossed to another dog and thought, silly dog, what's wrong with the one you've got? Closer to the point have you watched the jobs and opportunities flow out of our rural communities and wondered what those communities have that that can bring them back? And while your mind is on grim thoughts have you wondered how the demands of our consumption driven society can be sustained by our increasingly compromised globe? It's enough to almost spoil a nice walk in the woods. But a nice walk in the woods might just reveal some answers.
Those of us that spend a fair amount of time walking in the woods are aware of the great diversity of forest types throughout New England. Equally diverse are the benefits that those forests can provide. The one that played a huge role in the development of the New England economy, forest products, has waxed and waned since colonial times and is now on the brink of waning away. Unlike the decades that followed sheep fever when the landscape was mostly cleared for pasture, the current decline in the forest products economy is occurring while trees in our forests are becoming over crowded.
Since we continue to use more forest products per capita than most people in the world why aren't we using our own instead of grabbing someone else's? There are many reasons, most are the same reasons that most of the resources we use are imported. The result, though isn't good for their forests and it isn't good for ours. The exploitation of natural resources that built our global economy has subsequently destroyed many local ones. The converse can also be true. The lack of environmental regulations throughout much of the global forest has lead to their decline while the lack of sustainable management of our own leads to the decline of ours.
"What is sorely needed" reports the Harvard Forest publication Wildlands and Woodlands "is a wide spread culture of stewardship that encourages sustainable forestry to spread across the landscape and make it economically viable". We have the opportunity in New England to sustainably manage our forests, provide incentives for private forestland owners to keep their land in forest and rebuild the rural economy. We can take responsibility for our own consumption by management and conservation of our own forests. As a society we should recognize the breadth of forest values, both locally and around the globe. We don't have to be that silly dog that drops its own treat to grab another's.
|Dicken Crane is a farmer, timber harvester, proponent of sustainable forest management, board member of Mass Forest Landowners Association and a Trustee of Mass Environmental Trust|