Report outlines funding to conserve half of Massachusetts's land

ands and Woodlands would ensure that the extraordinary environmental, social, and economic values of the forest are sustained for generations to come," says Foster, director of the Harvard Forest, Harvard University's ecology and conservation research center in Petersham, Mass. "It would, in effect, reverse the recent deforestation trend that's occurring in Massachusetts and much of the Eastern U.S. and ensure the continuing provision of clean air and clean water from natural systems at a much more reasonable cost than serving these needs with human-engineered systems."

Much of the forested land in the Eastern United States was clear-cut in the 17th and 18th centuries for farms and fields. This trend was reversed across the region in the 19th century with the westward shift of agriculture.

In recent decades, Foster says, this pattern has again shifted in Massachusetts. A sprawling second wave of human-driven deforestation is consuming the state's woodlands at an estimated rate of more than 40 acres a day.

"Unlike the earlier 'soft' deforestation that produced fields, which could eventually reforest, the results of this 'hard' deforestation are asphalt and strip malls that will occupy the land permanently and eliminate the important green benefits of forestland," Foster says. "With it we lose basic infrastructure and natural services that provide water, recreation, quality of life, resources, community character, and substantial environmental protection. The eastern forests are also a globally important sink for carbon dioxide that assists in offsetting the increase in greenhouse gases and global climate change."

Some of the most promising conservation finance tools outlined by the panel of experts include increasing state bonding authority for conservation with dedicated revenues from taxes and other sources; passing the Community Preservation Act in additional towns and cities; paying landowners for conserving their land in a

Contact: Steve Bradt
Harvard University

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