A week or so ago, I went hiking at Notchview in Windsor, MA, a property maintained by The Trustees of Reservations. It’s a beautiful, 3000+ acre area at about 2000 ft elevation, open year-round to the public for hiking and skiing. It’s a mix of rolling pastoral fields and mossy woods of red spruce, birch and hardwoods. The hiking is very easy and relaxing and it’s a fantastic place to go and think while you wander (although I recommend a map and compass, the network of paths crisscrosses a lot at it isn’t always well marked; I’ve gotten turned around more than once).
This was the first time I’d been there in a few years and I was surprised by the extent of some of the clearing projects that are underway. I tried to do some research and I guess there was a major ice storm in 2008 that did a lot of damage to the trees. It looked like some of the downed and topped trees were damaged more recently, but I haven’t found any records of big blow-downs or microbursts that may have caused damage though that’s what some spots looked like. I understand the need to clear felled trees that obstruct paths, the need to do trail maintenance and selective clearing to provide new trails, but what disheartened me was a large area that appeared to be being cleared with huge, industrial-strength brush cutters (as evidenced by damage to the surrounding trees and branches and stumps that looked mangled, like they’ve been ripped apart and not just cut down).
I don’t understand or like this method of clearing areas -even in smaller scale operations along roadway. It seems so cruel to the ecosystems involved and unnecessary. Why can’t crews of people be hired to do this work? Yes it’s labor intensive, yes it may take longer and may cost more, but wouldn’t it be less damaging (especially to a boreal-like coniferous forest) to the ecosystem AND provide some extra jobs in an economy where people are looking for work? Is running one of those huge brush-cutters more fuel efficient than chainsaws? I just don’t like it. At the beginning of my walk, I had been thinking I’d donate to the Trustees; they have many fabulous properties. After seeing these clearing efforts and not being able to find any information on why or how these projects are being done, I’m much more reluctant to. Maybe a description of this project is in the management plan posted on their website, but the plan is dated 2006(!) and I haven’t yet found any more recent descriptions. It was an emotional hike, surrounded by beauty but haunted by patches of destruction.
Here are some photos from my hike that day. Sorry they aren’t the best, I only had my phone with me.