Guest columnist Don Ogden: Half a loaf in the climate crisis? Healey initiative hurts forests


Published: 07-07-2023 2:31 PM

Almost all those who study or seriously think about the climate crisis agree that it is the existential threat of our time. Many don’t think about it at all for that very reason. Such an overwhelming threat calls for an overwhelming response if future generations are to have a livable world and yet we see no such response.

This writer is of the opinion that there should be no business as usual in the climate crisis but business as usual continues on, increasingly fouling the atmosphere and elements we need to survive. Yes, there are some measures (mostly half-measures) being made to address the crisis, but most scientific experts say we are not doing enough.

The long awaited and appreciated rollout of Gov. Maura Healey’s “Forests as Climate Solutions’ Initiative” last week was, sadly, another disappointing half-measure given that it weighed heavily in favor of continuing business as usual under the logging and forestry industries’ greenwashed euphemisms.

Terms like “climate resilience” or “climate-oriented management guidelines” and “providing local wood products, and supporting biodiversity” have been used by state agencies including the Department of Conservation & Recreation and MassWildlife for the past few years as cover for rampant logging on our precious public lands, needlessly destroying the very trees, undergrowth and soil integrity that are the natural carbon capture we need to push back on the climate crisis.

While the Healey administration thankfully acknowledges the existence of a climate emergency and established a six-month logging moratorium, it was notable the governor’s plan had just two “Statements of Support” and both were from pro-logging entities: the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board, which has “close working partnerships” with MassWildlife and its extensive logging on public lands; and Mass Audubon, which has supported various clear-cuts over the years.

Why are there no supportive statements from environmental groups trying to permanently protect the very trees and forests on our public lands that are working day in and day out to capture CO2 emissions and storing carbon during this crisis?

The Massachusetts Logging Panel

Elsewhere in Gov. Healey’s plan there is reference that Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs “will convene a committee of scientific experts … to guide development of climate-oriented management guidelines, evaluating and building on the existing science-based practices currently in place.”

However, the makeup of the panel turns out to be mostly pro-logging individuals, some with little or no scientific background. Such a panel should spare us more deception and simply call themselves the Massachusetts Logging Panel. Better yet, why doesn’t Energy and Environmental Affairs improve the panel by adding an equal number of climate experts and wildlife conservation biologists who support pro-forestation and non-game wildlife protection? There must be equity on this panel.

Times change

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Let’s be clear, Massachusetts can no longer afford to be what it once was, clear-cutting massive tracts of forest and floating them down the Connecticut River for export. Neither can it continue sending all those semis north on Route 91 to Canada loaded down with mature hardwoods from our public lands. Likewise, with the exception of fine woodworking, some light construction and specialty items, the newly touted wood products industry exemplified by Mass Timber and dirty biomass must go the way of coal mining.

The industry of the 21st century must, by way of our very survival, be one based on clean truly renewable energy and the preservation of life on planet Earth. That’s no exaggeration; we are, after all, in a climate crisis.

Don Ogden is the co-host of The Enviro Show on WXOJ, WMCB & WMNB.