Logging Wendell Forest will decrease forest health

I’ve visited Wendell State Forest in Massachusetts to explore the area the state proposes logging for “forest health”. In a recent article in the Greenfield Recorder, Leo Roy, State Department of Conservation & Recreation has argued that he fears the forest will become too homogenous and healthiest in the long run.

As a forest ecologist, I can assert that logging is the action that will result in a more homogenous and less healthy forest ecosystem.

I challenge the commissioner to walk through the forest and show me the specific trees that need to be kept so the forest is “healthy.” And which will lead to a degraded ecosystem if not removed.

It will be interesting to learn how he knows (and all the foresters that think they understand forest ecosystems) which individual trees have the specific genetic make up that may be resistant to heat, drought, cold, insects, disease, including insects and disease/insects that may not even exist in Massachusetts yet.

I’ve challenged numerous foresters over the years to tell me which trees have such genetic factors and of course, none even think about this possibility much less know much about forest genetics.

Yet such genetic differences do exist within individual trees. One study published in the journal Conservation Biology did an experiment whereby the genetic profile of all large trees in experimental plots were recorded prior to a thinning operation. After thinning, the researchers found that the logged plots had lost 50% of their genetic diversity.

In particular, rare alleles were removed. This was especially alarming because rare alleles are the ones that plants and animals rely upon to deal with new challenges.

The end result of logging was a genetically impoverished forest ecosystem, and one that was less able to withstand new ecological trials.

On the other hand, if the forest is not thinned, no doubt some trees will suffer mortality over time. But the trees that are removed will be the ones that are least able to cope with changing climate.

If the people of Massachusetts care about the health of their forests, they will support an end to logging and let Nature determine which trees are most fit to meet new challenges.






  1. idaursine Avatar

    I thought our forests in MA would be the beneficiaries of a kind of benign neglect (I had read an article stating such), where they could continue to grow naturally without anyone paying attention or wanting to capitalize on them. I guess I was wrong!!!

    But now I read where we are on the decline again. Never let a good tree go unused, I guess. 🙁


  2. Some old lady in Wendell Avatar
    Some old lady in Wendell

    I’m not clear on what is meant by “… Leo Roy, State Department of Conservation & Recreation has argued that he fears the forest will become too homogenous and healthiest in the long run.” Is homogenous supposed to be homogeneous and is “…healthiest in the long run” a misprint? Please clarify.

  3. Judy Hall Avatar
    Judy Hall

    I appreciate you coming to Wendell, George. I have been learning from you since I worked for Jon Marvel at the Western Watersheds Project in Hailey, ID. I now live in Wendell only 2 miles from the proposed Brook Road Forest Management Project. Next time you’re here please look us up. We live in a house that survived the tornado of 2006 on 32 acres 10 of which were affected by the tornado. Until reading your position and that of Harvard Forest I have been in support of this plan because it proposes to create habitat diversity. For the most part wildfires and tornados don’t discriminate between the trees with rare alleles. But they do create mosaics of different habitat. Aren’t those valuable as potential incubators of solutions to disease and insect infestations in the forest? The Brook Road Project proposes creating some Early Successional habitat which is uncommon in the Wendell State Forest. Thank you

  4. Richard H Stafursky Avatar

    One way to quickly see the harm done to the species’ forests of Massachusetts is from Google Earth or other remote viewings. Scars left by foresters litter the natural landscape. Scars left by forestry researchers rip the landscape. Scientists often dismiss these traumas, but artists and historians recognize an abused forest when they see one. In 2017 and 2018 I’ve toured nearly all of the State lands that have been or are, like Wendell species’ forest, under logging contract. I walked with the forest planners. After several tours in various locations during those years, as we commented before leaving, I told the State foresters, “I don’t know why you guys are here. I have not seen any reason to cut any of these forests”. As a 1972 graduate with a B.S. in zoology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an expert on the natural landscape, I know that there is no scientific reason to log or enhance for profit any acre of the vast State forest system. My recommendation is that, not fifty percent, but one hundred per sent of State natural landscape should be immediately set aside as a species’ forest as far as the eye can see. – – – From the Deep Woods of the Species’ Forest, Conway, Massachusetts.

  5. Mike Leonard Avatar

    https://www.facebook.com/MikeLeonardConsultingForester/posts/2012998322113664?__tn__=K-R Read my analysis of the forestry work in Wendell State Forest. Mike Leonard, Consulting Forester


George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner