An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Exposed: FSC-certified clear-cutting of Massachusetts public forests, USATags: USA, Accreditation controls, SCS

A new website launched recently reveals the destruction of Massachusetts public forests by clear-cutting, even though they have been FSC certified. Clearcutting MA Public Lands shows a series of aerial photographs taken by a local activist.

The more than half million acres of Massachusetts Public Forests, including the Savoy Forest, were certified by Scientific Certification Systems Inc, in August 2004. SCS evidently had difficulty in massaging the state public bodies through the certification process: of the 17 'conditions' which SCS had attached to the certificate between 2002, when assessment began, and 2004, only two conditions had been 'closed out' by the time the certificate was issued. SCS's Public Summary Report of the certificate reveals that, at the time of certificaton, the various public bodies responsible for managing forestlands had no landscape level forest management plan, very few actual forest management plans, no means of identifying or delimiting areas of High Conservation Value Forest, had no credible calculations of annual allowable harvest, and had failed to identify, designate, or map representative ecological reserves.


However, in a pattern that has been identified with numerous other SCS certifications, the largest of the Mass. forest managers, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), responsible for 285,000 acres of forest, managed to just scrape past SCS's 'pass-mark' score of 80/100: for eight of the nine applicable FSC Principles, DEM scored only 85 or less. Contravening FSC's current rules - which require compliance with all Principles, SCS awarded the certificate on the basis only that the state public forest land agencies "while having observed deficiencies, are on balance substantively compliant with each of the relevant FSC principles" (emphasis added).

The full public summary report is available here: forest_mass.pdf


These are touted as being "to promote wildlife", including the
chestnut-sided warbler. Wow they sure have enough land now!! We do see some deer stands now at the edge of the cuts in the trees. Guess that is the enhancement working.

Just for the record, MA changed the names of some of the agencies in 2004. What used to be DEM is basically the Department of Conservation and Recreation now, (DCR), and specifically the Bureau of Forestry within DCR. Same lands, same managers, just different name. The most serious violation of FSC principles on DCR-BOF lands is that timber sales have been proposed and implemented without site-specific management plans.

A new series of pictures showing FSC-certified devastation of the Savoy public forest is available here:


I am no supporter of FSC. Personally I think it is fundamentally flawed in its approach to certifying forest operations. They make up their own rules as they go; vary the conditions for certification based on their own values applied inconsistently across the world, with little or no follow up once they collect their fees.

That said, this post is a classic misuse of images by single minded folks to pusuade others to feel the way they do about any disturbance what-so-ever in the forests. Any rational person with any actual experience in the forests would not see anything particularly problematic with the images. Images do not tell a accurate story; they can be used to manipulate the uninformed; and by themselves have little use in any truthful examination of sound forest management.

Denial is not just a river in Egypt!

Research conducted at a number of universities stateside has shown that in many cases clearcutting is less damaging than selective harvesting.

Selective harvesting requires far more logging roads and causes much more wide spread compaction issues, furthermore logging roads can cause substaintial problems with runoff and erosion.

Clear cutting leaves the stumps, saplings, and undergrowth which together hold the soil in place as the forest regenerates on steep sites where logs are pulled to a single clearing them moved down a single road the benefits are enormous. While not always the best solution the determination is site dependant and should take into account sound forest managment, the economics of harvesting, the site conditions and propensity for runoff, and the state of the undergrowth that exists. It also depends on the forest mix and the species that the forest owner wished to encourage or discourage. Many Oak stands are being decimated by selective harvesting which encourages Maples, especially Soft Maple, Beech, and Poplar at the expense of the Oaks and Hard Maples which need plenty of sunshine in their early years.

The hatred of clear cutting is another situation where something that can be both good or bad but is demonized by the ill-informed.

That said, the FSC is crooked, especially in the US with the strangehold on certification for LEED projects, as they say "absolute power corrupts absolutely" FSC for all their good intentions has not escaped this.

Clearcutting is bad, always. The volume required for modern mills means more and bigger clearcuts. Clearcutting violently interrupts the forest cycle, has devastating effects on the soil nutrients and soil flora. It removes large amounts of the biomass that would have burned and returned to the soil.

It takes many years before the mycorrhizal fungus is re-established after a clear cut--as compared to a forest fire site.

Companies target older, larger stands of trees because they have more volume of wood per hectare cut. This reduces the overall age class of the forest and takes away habitat for older-growth dependent species.

The carbon stored in the trees cut is returned to the atmosphere within a year after it's cut. All those new, little saplings aren't going to take up the carbon that was stored in the massive old-growth trees.

Bombing a forest with napalm may be worse than a clearcut, but we don't advocate that either. Selective cutting (whatever that means coming from the forest industry) would take more area and more roads to harvest, but that's not what I'm advocating.

Our mills across Canada and the world are too large, require too much volume of wood from overstressed and global warming-damaged forests. Volumes need to be reduced, consumption needs to be reduced and alternatives are available to fill in the void.

The Tembec mill in Pine Falls can use wheat straw to make newsprint. This makes so much more sense than using trees, but nobody at the mill wants to make the switch. Now that they have a fraudulent FSC stamp on their newspaper, why would they make any effort to change?

If you want a healthy forest then don't clear cut it. You don't need to be a doctor to see that someone is sick. You don't need a degree in forest management to see that clearcutting is bad for the forest.

Biology and ecology doesn't bend to our will just because we want to make newsprint and lumber. FSC is the worst thing to happen to our forests since the invention of the chain saw.

David Nickarz

Hear hear david,

to richard: "Any rational person with any actual experience in the forests would not see anything particularly problematic with the images"

Err, actual experience of what? Being there, logging? I see plenty wrong with it. And yes I am against any interference with primary habitat, i dont care about the logging economy - human beings are infinitely creative when we want to be we can create alternative economies for people that currently rely on old-growth logging. Have some respect for the wild places, they are what made you.


Well said. Primary, old growth forests provide much more for us intact and standing. The short-sighted benefit of clearcutting them and making a bit of money is fleeting.

No cutting of old growth!

David Nickarz

I would appreciate the opportunity to chime in on this subject for a moment. I believe I am slightly qualified to speak here as a graduate student in forest ecology at CSU and having studied much of the same issues at play here. I know not everyone will be in agreement with this statement and I would ask you to hear me out for moment, but patch cuts (clearcut) are not always bad. Some forest ecosystems are disturbance dependent and need this type of management to regenerate and increase overall vigor. That being said, clearcuts are certainly not always the answer. But before we judge from an aerial photo, which we know nothing about, lets gather some more information. Also, the FSC has always had a standard in their certification regarding clearcuts, and has allowed them, but with conditions applied that must be met. One such condition is that a certain amount of green be left in the patch and the patch size must be inline to mimic a non-catestrophic natural disturbance. It is very difficult to tell in the winter how much green is left if the trees are deciduous. It should also be noted that if they harvested during the winter they have done an excellent job at minimizing forest floor disturbance. I would also recommend looking at section 3.2.2 in the .pdf provided in the link. It mentions numerous forest types. Anyone here who can tell me the species of those deciduous trees in the winter from an aerial photo, go right ahead. The truth here is that we know little to nothing about these cuts; soil type, slope, aspect, cover type, SDI, silviculture objectives, etc. As for damage to soil, I would challenge anyone to walk through an area that has experienced a forest fire and then through an area that has been responsibly harvested. You may notice a stark difference in that there is still a significant O layer and a definite A horizon left after harvest. It boils down to responsible management. I have done this as my research surrounds mixed severity fire and ecological response in managed areas. It sounds as though this state forest is scraping by to meet the qualifications of FSC, and they may indeed be making some poor decisions concerning forest management, but lets stop and try getting educated on the matter before passing judgement. After all, I don't consider every caucasian male to be a Republican, although there certainly might be a few out there (I'm a Dem for the record). Before we lump any category of forest management into good or bad try becoming educated first, different management prescriptions work in varying forests ecosystems, and may not work in others, remember some forest types are reliant on disturbances of this nature and would not be sustainable without them.

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