By Ray Hershel
AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) — Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration are taking steps to protect state forests from commercial logging, which has its supporters and its detractors.
The administration is making more state land off limits to logging. Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles and Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Rick Sullivan announced details of the new plan during a stop at the Mt. Holyoke Range State Reservation in Amherst.
Secretary Bowles explained the significance of the new guidelines.
“The main news here is that about 200,000 acres of our state-owned forest will no longer be subject to any commercial logging.”
The new plan means that 60 percent of the state forests and parklands will be off limits to logging. Right now, that percentage is only 13 percent.
DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan says it will also be tougher to log remaining state areas where commercial harvesting is allowed.
“It also puts protocols in place so things like clear cuts while it would still be possible, it’s a very limited circumstance that would require a very robust public process so it really is changing the way DCR will be managing forests and parks for generations to come.”
Not everyone is happy with the new plan. Cinda Jones, president of the Cowls Companies, says the restrictions will hurt the economy.
“At a time when the economy is suffering and there’s no state aid, our energy prices are crazy, it just seems strange to put limits on the availability of sustainable forest products.”
But the plan is getting high marks from environmental groups like the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
“The state lands are so very important for both people and wildlife and this is a change that will benefit generations to come,” said Heidi Ricci, of the Audubon Society.