Guest Columnist Michael Mauri: The question is how to manage Massachusetts forests

It would be foolish not to take care of our forests. But what constitutes appropriate care? It’s a global question with local answers. ...



It would be foolish not to take care of our forests. But what constitutes appropriate care? It’s a global question with local answers.

To some in Massachusetts, a hands-off, no-logging, do nothing approach seems most appealing. However, doing nothing is a narrow approach that can never meet all of our needs.

Of course, many forest features thrive better without our influence. Indeed, the no-cut zones are part of a sound management approach. However, even in areas where timber is exploited, there are thoughtful ways to support natural development.

Hardly hands free, people around the world have always tended to deliberately engage with nature to create “biodiverse cultural landscapes” (people have shaped most of earth’s nature for at least 12,000 years, Ellis et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021). Readers who garden in their own backyards carry on this tradition.

Sadly, in Massachusetts, most of the records of Native American practices that shaped the pre-contact forest disappeared in the 1600s. Fragmentary historical accounts indicate that the forests were kept open and that fire was an important tool, at least. near seasonal dwellings. But conflicting scientific conclusions leave us a bit in the dark, especially with regard to scale and intensity, and especially in oak and pine forests.

Our understanding of the past has been much better preserved in California. In his book “Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources”, environmentalist Mr. Kat Anderson cites in-depth interviews with ancient California natives whose grandparents, dating back to the 1800s, still realized the very types of scenery – level practices long lost in New England.

For example, native Californians traditionally used fire as a tool to stimulate and open the forest, especially to promote oaks for acorns and to cultivate large quantities of young forest shoots to make the myriad baskets the heart of their fashion. of life. Elders addressing Anderson lament the modern idea of ​​an uninterrupted wilderness as neglect, a sentiment exemplified most clearly in the words of an elder from southern Miwok, who said: “The man white has certainly ruined this country. It’s become wild again.

Speaking for the camera about the survival and rebirth of ancient practices (“Tending the Wild: Complete Broadcast Special,” KCET), a younger generation Shmuwich Chumash weaver describes the relationship between indigenous peoples and nature as not without intervention, but rather like that of gathering and healing, of taking and giving back, with a back and forth in search of a balance.

A key fact here is that non-Indigenous observers, whether they intend to take or preserve, have repeatedly overlooked Indigenous roles in shaping nature for their needs and have repeatedly taken over managed landscapes. culturally for a pristine wilderness. Even keen eyed naturalists such as John Muir have been fooled.

Obviously, if done in a thoughtful enough way, the benefits of nature and management can coexist. We see it today in Massachusetts, where residents often don’t even realize that the wonderful forests around them have been cut down.

Of course, California and Massachusetts are not the same. And, it is true, our modern ways differ considerably from those of the ancient native ways, both conceptually and materially, whether here or there, then or now. But among those things that we perhaps share across cultures and time, there is an overwhelming need to actively seek out specific outcomes from the forest around us.

Yes, across cultures we still appreciate the winter warmth of wood. Here in today’s Massachusetts, we need less sprouts for baskets. Instead, we need usable timber to build and improve houses. And although few people grow nutritious acorns for food, many are keen to see the full diversity of wildlife flourish in our landscape. And while we don’t need to keep nearby forests open and passable for hunting and berry cultivation, we are looking for smart ways to sequester imperceptible carbon from the air and provide a reliable flow of drinking water. to our tanks. In short, we continue to depend on the forest for our survival.

Thus, there remains a great impulse not only to appreciate the forest, but also to engage with it deliberately. The question is always how. Some approaches are bound to be more practical than others. Unique answers will always be needed for each location and time. Indeed, sometimes doing nothing will be the best choice. But doing nothing as a rule of thumb will never be enough.

With that in mind, I encourage readers to reject any bills (like H 912 and H 1002) that would increasingly require us to manage our forests, in fact, by doing nothing.

Michael Mauri is a forester based in South Deerfield.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest Columnist Michael Mauri: The question is how to manage Massachusetts forests
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