Press Release: Pine Barrens Forest Walk – October 28, 2023

  Katherine Harrelson 

Community members and scientists question State plan for Myles Standish State Forest Restoration

The forest on the right is a Pine Barrens ecosystem which has evolved over the last couple of hundreds of years. The landscape on the left is the result of DCR’s “restoration” of the forest.

Janet Sinclair    413-478-4333
Michael Kellett    978-618-8752
Meg Sheehan   508-591-5522

Plymouth MA. On Saturday, October 28, 2023 forest protection groups Save Massachusetts
Forests and Restore: The North Woods hosted a walk at Myles Standish State Forest (MSSF) to
discuss the 10 Year Pine Barrens Restoration Plan being implemented by the Massachusetts
Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Bureau of Fire Control and Forestry ( DCR)  along
with MassWildlife. So far about 876 acres of the 2,000-acre restoration plan was completed in
2020, and the rest is on hold during the Healey Administration moratorium on state land forest

Janet Sinclair, co-founder of Save Massachusetts Forests commented, “I have heard from
people who supported this project until they saw it and now are giving it  more thought.” She
described hearing of the area being described as “savannah-like” in the areas that
are heavily harvested, leaving the area sparsely populated with single trees that are vulnerable
because they are unsupported by any surrounding vegetation, and are falling down and dying
during drought conditions or storms. People are now quite upset and want a more careful
evaluation before any more work on the project goes forward.” 

Read more in this presentation about how this clearing within a State Forest was allowed to happed, how the Department of Conservation and Recreation used a legal loophole to eliminate 2000 acres of wildlife habitat.

The state forest is designated as a “reserve” by DCR. According to Michael Kellett, executive
director of RESTORE, reserves are not supposed to be logged except under special
circumstances. “Many of us worked hard a decade ago to make sure that state lands were set
aside as “reserves,” protected to allow for natural processes with minimal human interference.
I don’t think the case can be made that this type of intensive forest management is appropriate
in MSSF.” He added that the two reasons for the logging are for fire prevention and for rare
species habitat. 

Kellett continued, “About the fires. Yes, there is a history of fires in this area, but the situation
now is far different than it was back then, when the forest was recovering from past clearing.
Since then, the forest has been growing back. There are many large trees that form a tall
canopy that keeps the forest cool, moist, and resistant to fire. In contrast, logging opens the
forest to hot, dry, windy conditions that promote wildfires. This is the case in the West, where
forests free from logging have fewer large wildfires than logged forests. We need to take a
break here and make sure that we are doing the right thing for this important forest. And I
don’t think this is it.”

Dr. Bill Stubblefield is a Harvard trained biologist who spoke about logging for wildlife at MSSF
during the walk on Saturday. “The protection of natural ecosystems is of paramount
importance for a livable future. What we have here is eco-engineering on a landscape scale
designed to restore an artifact of colonial agriculture as reimagined from the 21 st Century.
Empirical evidence from pond sediments shows that the forest was dominated by white pine
and tall oaks when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth.”

Linda Coombs, member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, author and historian attended the
walk.  “When the first explorers, settlers and others began coming to these shores in the 16th
and 17th centuries, they often wrote about the land, the landscapes and the people they saw. 
They described the vastness of the forests, the size of the trees, and the park-like situation
there.  They described in the millions the number of birds, animals, fish, and all plant life. 
descriptions.  The Europeans did not make the connection then, but this described condition of
the land was due to the activities of Indigenous people, who held a sacred responsibility as the
human thread in the web of life to keep the earth, the land, as it was created.  We followed
natural law, or the way that the Creator made the earth to work, in ways of respect and
reciprocity.  That way we maintained the earth for more than 15,000 years. In more than 400
years now, we are on the brink of complete destruction.  We are not following natural law.” 

Meg Sheehan of Community Land & Water Coalition/Save the Pine Barrens weighed in.  “The
reckless logging, burning and destruction of forests and ecosystems in Myles Standish by state
agencies must stop now. Southeastern Massachusetts towns have the highest rates of loss of
open space and deforestation according to many studies. The state’s largest landowner, A.D.
Makepeace Cranberry Co. of Wareham owns over 6,000 acres around Myles Standish.
Makepeace and others are destroying  Pine Barrens forests and entire ecosystems by industrial
scale sand and gravel mining. Myles Standish is the last refuge for the wildlife being displaced. It
is also a refuge for people. It helps protect our sole source drinking water aquifer. This logging
plan will destroy the last fragments of what we have left.”

Aaron Keaton is an educator, mycologist and resident of Plymouth. “Being raised in Plymouth, I
feel inherently connected to the well-being and fate of the land. As stewards of the land we
have great responsibility to care for our natural communities & only do what is responsibly
necessary to maintain the health of our local ecosystems. Embarking on habitat restoration
must be done without any motivation besides the will to care for the land and its inhabitants.
By clear cutting forests, we are minimizing habitat rather than enhancing it. The short term
impacts are clear, increased soil erosion, loss of natural filtration from roots, decreased carbon
sequestering, and overall loss of critical habitat to support biodiversity. Plus we can never fully
understand the long term effects of our actions, especially to something as diverse & ever
changing as natural habitats. We must tread softly.” 

The groups have bills in the legislature aimed at increasing reserves on state land, making them
permanent in the law, and overseen by a councils including independent scientists and
members of the public. (House Bills 904, 894, and 4150) They also are supporting a bill to
make sure that local municipalities are better able to make standards for solar development( Senate 1319, House 2082). These bills can be found here:


Project details here:

“Native People did not use fire to shape New England’s Landscape”

“Forest-clearing to create early-successional habitats: Questionable benefits, significant

“Wildlands in New England: Past, Present, and Future”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *