The Hidden Meaning of #4   Robert Leverett
  Sep 16, 2003 13:52 PDT 


The confirmation of a 4th 160-footer in MTSF on Sunday by Howard
Stoner and its subsequent verification by Gary Beluzo and myself was a
special event. Mohawk and Claremont both have 4 160-footers. At present
that is the census for New England. Once there were more. When the
Cathedral Pines were still standing on a hillside in Cornwall, CT, they
were acknowledged as New England's flagship stand. They had 160-footers.
A most inconsiderate microburst blew them asunder in July 1989. For me
the day will live in infamy.

   Fortunately, the Mohawk 160-footers are dispursed in two locations.
In a couple or three years two more pines should join the elite club,
both in different locations from each other and from the existing
160-footers. So we could have 160-footers in 4 separate locations. That
affords us some protection unless the big one hits. Perish the thought.

   Earlier I sent the state an updated list of Mohawks 35 150-footers. I
keep sending them lists. Hopefully, the lists will gradually win
converts beyond the few DCR planners that do seem to recognize Mohawk's
unique position within the Massachusetts system of forests, parks, and
reservations. But why is it taking so long for the State to see the gold
in the forests of the Deerfield and Cold River gorges? Well maybe they
do see the gold. The state forests of Massachusetts basically fall under
the Bureau of Forestry and that suggests a certain predilection. I wish
that weren't the case, but alas, I fear it is. So we who value the
aesthetic and ecological importance of the pines must stay ever vigilant
and aware of those who mainly see board feet and plenty of them.

    On occasion, I try to see the world through the eyes of the forestry
world. I try to imagine the feelings I'd have, were I a forester,
watching a whole forest die and not being able to do anything about it
because of the actions of people I regarded as rank amateurs. There is
some sympathy within me for that kind of thinking, but it only goes so
far so several reasons. A lot of those out there who think they know a
lot, don't!

    There are individual foresters whom I think have decoded many of the
mysteries of forest health, recognize the habitat balance points, and do
justice to the job of managing the forests for which they have
responsibility, private or public. I think the Forest Stewards Guild is
trying to attract that kind of forester. There is also a small group of
avant garde foresters like Don Bertolette who are pushing the boundaries
of forestry's knowledge about how disturbances like periodic fire really
work. So there is room for optimism. But alas, for every good,
ecologically-sensitive forester, there are ten out there who aren't.
Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true. They are to be found in government,
industry, and as private consultants. So with individual foresters
excepted, I remain very distrustful of forestry's motives. But an
impasse between to groups that don't trust one another is exactly what
we don't need and for increasingly urgent reasons.

   The actual on-the-ground situation here in Massachusetts makes it
imperative that non-forester environmentalists with specialized forest
knowledge begin taking the state of the Bay State forests seriously and
look for ways to link up with the good foresters in the white hats. We
can and are doing that, but given the broader public apathy toward
forest issues, how do we take this thing beyond a small mutual
admiration society?

   We need to attract public attention to the condition of the forests -
in a scrupulously honest way. That absolutely rules out approaches that
disguise an underlying agenda of drumming up business for special
interest groups, be they in the wood products industry,
recreationalists, government bureaucrats, and yes, private consulting
foresters. We need a high profile lecture series that has the goal of
attracting an ever widening circle of participants willing to debate all
sides of forest issues. It is this approach that Gary Beluzo and I have
in mind for the impending lecture series at Holyoke Community College.
We just have to pull it off.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society