Massachusetts unveils land management plan for 311,000 acres of parklands, reserves, woodlands; DCR to resume commercial harvesting--suspended since 2008--on 40% of land now designated as woodland

BOSTON , April 9, 2012 (press release) – New Landscape Designation Stewardship Plan establishes management designations for 311,000 acres of parklands, reserves and woodlands
The Patrick-Murray Administration today unveiled Landscape Designations for DCR Parks and Forests: Selection Criteria and Management Guidelines, a new management model and vision for the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) stewardship of nearly 311,000 acres of parks and forests comprising the state parks system.

Endorsed by the DCR Stewardship Council on Friday, April 6, 2012, this plan marks a significant milestone toward implementing a new long-term strategy for management of the tremendous resources that are DCR’s parks and forests.

“Implementation of landscape designations represents a watershed moment in the history of the department’s stewardship of our public forest and park system,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. “Thanks to input from a thoughtful, broad sector of the public, we have a balanced stewardship approach that reflects the many different values people hold for these public lands. I am pleased to celebrate this new chapter in the agency’s stewardship of these public resources.”

In the spring of 2009, DCR launched the Forest Futures Visioning Process to develop a renewed vision for DCR parks and forests. This process began under the leadership of then DCR Commissioner and current EEA Secretary Sullivan.

The Forest Futures Technical Steering Committee (TSC) – a panel of independent experts – issued recommendations one year later after a robust statewide public process. These recommendations centered on prioritizing management practices based on the natural benefits DCR lands could sustainably provide, such as public recreational opportunities, clean water, clean air, reduction of carbon dioxide, biodiversity, protection for rare and endangered habitats and species, and a supply of wood products.

The three Landscape Designations are:

• Parklands – areas primarily managed for public recreation opportunities, connections to nature, and the protection and appreciation of natural and cultural resources. Management approaches are expected to range from those used to protect sensitive natural resources to maintaining highly modified environments to support recreational offerings. Commercial timber harvesting is not allowed in these areas and forest management activities are limited to that which is necessary to support recreational assets and uses and ensure public safety.

• Reserves – properties representing the least fragmented forested areas where biological diversity based on ecological processes will predominate and inform management and conservation efforts. The dominant ecosystem objectives in these areas include biodiversity maintenance, nutrient cycling and soil formation and long-term reduction of carbon dioxide. Commercial timber harvesting is not allowed in these areas and a new Forest Reserves Science Advisory Committee will be formed to help the agency in its stewardship of reserves.

• Woodlands – areas that are actively managed to demonstrate model forestry, resource protection, sustainable production of timber and provide recreation. Woodlands will provide a range of ecosystem services including production of high-quality local wood products, water quality protection and promotion of habitat diversity. Commercial timber harvesting is allowed in woodland areas under a revised set of guidelines and standards. Through the Landscape Designation process, DCR designated a total of 310,666 acres of parks and forests: 77,331 acres of parklands, 111,227 acres of reserves and 122,108 acres of woodlands.

Before the Landscape Designation process, approximately 40,000 acres, or 13 percent, of lands in DCR’s state parks system were named as reserves and excluded from commercial timber harvesting. DCR has expanded this network of reserves by more than one and a half times the former size. In addition, about 60 percent of the parks system – parklands and reserves – are now excluded from commercial logging activities.

At the same time, DCR will resume active forest management via commercial harvesting – which has been suspended since 2008, before the Forest Futures Visioning Process began – on the approximately 40 percent of land now designated as woodland. Management will demonstrate forestry practices that restore and promote forest habitat, enhance ecological restoration of degraded natural community types, promote uneven aged forest to help minimize damage associated with natural disturbances, and produce high quality and high value forest products.

“Landscape Designation paves a new and exciting path, which complements the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s mandate to provide for resource protection, recreation, and sustainable forest management,” said DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert. “We stand eager to move forward with our partners as we put into practice these principles of stewardship. With this plan we will continue our work to achieve our mission of protecting, promoting, and enhancing our common wealth of natural, cultural, and recreational resources for the benefit and wellbeing of all.”

“The Appalachian Mountain Club applauds the new Landscape Designations and DCR’s leadership in establishing a bold and comprehensive approach to managing forests and recreation on its lands,” said John D. Judge, President of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “This land management approach will help DCR provide high quality recreational opportunities, sustainable forest management, and protect the many ecological values inherent in the State’s forests. This is the beginning of a new and beneficial approach to land and resource management in the state, and we look forward to seeing it applied.”

“The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) applauds DCR for undertaking the work of framing a vision for the future of our state forests, and for moving decisively to adopt and carry out key recommendations made in that planning process,” said Lisa Vernegaard, Vice President for Sustainability at The Trustees for Reservations and Chair of the Forest Futures Technical Steering Committee. “This work will enable DCR to work as part of a collective effort to steward our forests more effectively, ensuring the health of our forestlands and the communities that depend upon them.”

“DCR lands contain an amazing array of natural treasures – the largest remaining areas of forest in the state, clear streams and lakes, ocean beaches, and hundreds of rare plants and animals,” said Mass Audubon Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Jack Clarke. “The new designations provide a framework for managing these precious public lands for the benefit of people and wildlife, now and for generations to come.”

“These designations are mainly about sound forest management, but they’re also good for people,” said Wayne Klockner, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “They form the basis for successfully managing more than 300,000 acres of public land in ways that support and promote all the values our forests provide – from wildlife habitat to timber to clean drinking water. The landscape-designation process was rigorous, inclusive and sound; and the outcome will make a real and lasting difference for Massachusetts.”

For additional details on DCR’s Landscape Designations please visit: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/ld/landscapedesignations.htm

### The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), an agency of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, oversees 450,000 acres of parks and forests, beaches, bike trails, watersheds, dams, and parkways. Led by Commissioner Edward M. Lambert, Jr., the agency’s mission is to protect, promote, and enhance our common wealth of natural, cultural, and recreational resources. To learn more about DCR, our facilities, and our programs, please visit www.mass.gov/dcr.

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