Guest Columnist Kate Lindroos Conlin: Ben's Lament on the Rise

The derogatory bias exemplified by Bart Bouricius’ November 26 editorial (“The Destructive Arrogance of Habitat Management”) discredits e...

The derogatory bias exemplified by Bart Bouricius’ November 26 editorial (“The Destructive Arrogance of Habitat Management”) discredits educated and experienced natural science professionals.

He claims that these professionals are guided by the modern “industrial economic system” and not by the scientific process. This accusation rests on an unsubstantiated claim that timber barons and international timber bosses paid research universities, land trusts, state institutions, government officials to orchestrate one of the worst schemes. most elaborate and least profitable in the history of mankind.

It also asserts, without citing specific examples, that the active forest management led and promoted by MassWildlife directly contributes to mass extinction and the biodiversity crisis.

A quick online search reveals that the most recent extinction to occur in Massachusetts was that of the heather hen. As the name suggests, this species was associated with heathland habitats that are generally free from closed canopy forest due to frequent fires. The rapid decline of the heather hen was due to overhunting and loss of habitat influenced by fire, which reduced their numbers to the point where inbreeding and disease became significant issues.

It appears that much of what MassWildlife is doing today would have benefited the heather, namely habitat management and sustainable issuance of hunting licenses by setting bag limits dictated by size and the health of the population.

The last heather hen was called Booming Ben. He died on March 11, 1932 in Martha’s Vineyard. In “The Sad Tale of Booming Ben, the Last of the Healthy Hens,” Rebecca Heisman writes: “The islanders nicknamed the remaining heather hen ‘Booming Ben’, after the grouse noise made during their parade. ‘elaborate mating. However, with no females to impress and no other males to confront, Ben remained silent. “The bird presented a pathetic silhouette because it was standing there on its own,” wrote Alfred O. Gross, professor at Bowdoin College at the time, “with no companions except the crows who had come to share the food intended for the hen. heather. “

It is speculated that the First Thanksgiving featured heather hens which were so plentiful that they later roamed Boston Common and were for a time considered a poor person’s food.

Even though there were, ultimately, multiple concerted efforts to help the species rebound, the prevailing social misconception of fire ecology and how it affects diversity has not allowed l natural habitat necessary to remain in the landscape. It should serve as an edifying tale.

The Massachusetts State Wildlife Action Plan “outlines the 570 species most needed for conservation in the Commonwealth, the 24 habitat types that support these species, and the actions needed to conserve them.” These species have as much the right to live here as M. Bouricius.

Mr. Bouricius claims that before modern human consumption, which is “only a few hundred years old”, trees would “manage themselves” in the absence of any outside influence. To claim that is to deny the very notion of what an ecosystem is, absurdly and dangerously exempting from natural processes small and large mammals, birds, fungi, insects, soil microbes and the entire series of living, destructive and dying organisms that all consume. in order to survive. In addition, romanticizing the pre-colonial landscape as “untouched” delegitimizes the indigenous impact on the land by treating it as inconsequential.

DCR and MassWildlife have both proven their commitment to wilderness with the designation of reserves. They do not refute the importance of older, mature forests. But not all trees in Massachusetts are as privileged as the giant white pines (some of the tallest in New England) featured in Leverett’s research paper cited by Bouricius. Most trees compete with many anthropogenic factors that will undoubtedly dictate their long-term survival, their ability to house and influence the life around them, as well as their ability to store carbon.

I urge readers not to get drawn into a position of division. The philosophical argument concerning the management of natural places has existed for more than a century and for good reason. There are important elements for both “sides” which should be viewed with full respect and open and honest dialogue. Let’s do this. We owe it to Booming Ben.

Kate Lindroos Conlin lives in Buckland and independently manages

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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest Columnist Kate Lindroos Conlin: Ben's Lament on the Rise
Guest Columnist Kate Lindroos Conlin: Ben's Lament on the Rise
Newsrust - US Top News
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