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Can We Preserve New England’s Resurging Forests?

Forests cover nearly 80 percent of New England. (Stephen Rose/AP)

Forests cover nearly 80 percent of New England. (Stephen Rose/AP)

In the mid-19th century, the writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau was living in Concord and writing about the region’s fragile wilderness. He wrote: “The bear, wolf, wildcat, deer, and marten, have disappeared.” Back then, farming, logging and hunting had decimated New England’s forests and wildlife. But today the forests are back — and cover 80 percent of the region. New England is now the most heavily forested region in the country, and yet it faces new threats, including housing construction and urban sprawl.

Last November, we talked about this with David Foster. He’s director of the Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre research center in Petersham, Mass.


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  • NE-PNW VoorTrekker

    One thing I wonder about is how the canopy of the New England forest will look in 50-100 years. In theory, it should be getting taller every year, especially with eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). These grow 6-12″ per year, and most mature ones (non-old growth) in NE are in the 80-120 ft range. In the right climate they have been known to achieve 207 ft tall. Since these can live to 500 years old, I’d expect many of our forests will eventually be filled with 150-190 ft specimens.

  • NE-PNW VoorTrekker

    Also, NE is still missing at least three key mammal species. Wolf, catamount, and elk. Eastern subspecies of these may all be extinct, but what is the likely hood that they will migrate in from the North and West on their own? I’d welcome their return, and was hoping that reintroduction in key NE areas (and North Country NY) would have started by now.

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