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This week: Of Culture and Comebacks; and Quabbin Reality Check

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Of Culture and Comebacks

Thanks to James Heflin for his recent cover story on Pittsfield's revitalization ("Pity City No More," April 12). The city of Pittsfield continues to use creativity to develop assets and build equity through cultural revitalization. From our perspective as former Northampton business owners (Pinch Pottery, founded in 1979) who currently operate Ferrin Gallery (since 2007) located in the "Upstreet Cultural District" of Pittsfield, we are watching the continuation of an era of private and public investment utilizing the combination of GE funds, city support and private benevolence. Having been participants in Northampton's revitalization that was driven by entrepreneurship during a growing economic period (1970s and 1980s), it is now astounding to see how the two cities have survived and prospered despite the recent recession. Creativity continues to be the common factor and leading force in both cities. With steady leadership from the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Anita Walker and support from Gov. Deval Patrick, the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires are no longer in the shadow of Boston.

Donald Clark
Leslie Ferrin
Co-owners of Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield

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Quabbin Reality Check

Massachusetts Forest Watch (Letters, April, 19,2012) wants a ban on logging at the Quabbin. On its website, Environment Massachusetts laments that, "in the past few years, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has allowed logging that could threaten the quality of our drinking water."

Actually, logging has been going on at the Quabbin for the past 50 years. Yet the Quabbin, one of the largest unfiltered surface water supplies in the country, has an exemplary record of providing safe, high-quality drinking water to more than two million people for decades.

How does "commercial logging"—certainly a pejorative term when used by Forest Watch—fit into a program to deliver clean water to Boston? (By the way, commercial logging is also used in management of the water supply forests of New York City, Providence, Hartford, and New Haven.) The watershed forestry program at the Quabbin manages vegetation to diversify ages, sizes, and species of trees. The patterning of vegetation to create horizontal and vertical variation is key to maintaining a forest that can respond to predictable and unpredictable disturbances, large and small, over time, to maintain forest cover sufficient to protect water quality and supply. When the desired patterning can be achieved through sale of standing trees, rather than simply as a cost, so much the better. Not only is the primary goal of watershed protection achieved efficiently; a modest level of appropriate rural economic activity is a secondary benefit.

Mr. Matera [of Mass. Forest Watch] conjures an image of a relentless "timber industry" ravaging the watershed at enormous public expense. In fact, the forest management program operates under a set of widely recognized scientific principles and a long-term watershed management plan. Individual timber sales, numbering more than a thousand over the last 50 years, are mapped and supervised by professional foresters. Yet standing timber volume at the Quabbin increased by fourfold between 1960 and 2000.

Before you accept Forest Watch's description of a devastated landscape at the Quabbin, take the time to go the DCR Water Supply website, have a look at the management plan, drive or walk some of the Quabbin forest, and consider the water quality record of the last half century. It speaks for itself.

Charles Thompson
Pelham

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In his April 19, 2012 letter, Chris Matera wrote that "there is no good reason for logging in the Quabbin." For decades, I have owned hundreds of acres of forests bounded by the publicly owned watershed land and I can attest to many good reasons for the carefully monitored harvest of trees. Indeed, without a forest management program involving strategic cutting, the health of the Commonwealth's forests and those surrounding forests, belonging to townships, nonprofit land trusts and private property owners such as myself, would suffer.

Our forest cover is still recovering from a century of clear cutting when much of our land was managed for agriculture. Today's re-grown and re-planted forests benefit from deliberate maintenance which increases species diversity to better confront threats of disease, insect infestation and storm devastation as well as those caused by pollution and development. In addition to ensuring cleaner air, providing wildlife habitat and offering recreational opportunities, a healthy, diverse, multi-aged forest cover is critical to a plentiful and clean water supply.

Within the Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) Division of Water Supply Protection, environmental professionals trained in biology, ecology, silviculture and related fields work, as they have for decades, to optimally manage forests such as those that surround the Quabbin. DCR's foremost goal is to preserve and ultimately to enhance the watershed lands which naturally filter drinking water for millions of Massachusetts residents, obviating the need for costly, artificially engineered filtration. Following publicly vetted long term management plans on state-owned land, DCR has accomplished what many states can only dream of in the realm of watershed forest protection. Harvesting trees on less than 1 percent of the forested acreage has continually improved our much acclaimed world class water producing ecosystem.

As with all successful endeavors, there can be problems and deficiencies. None of these are insurmountable and DCR has deliberately included the public in making policy. Like so many landowners on Massachusetts' watersheds whose forests are routinely monitored by DCR, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the process, help tackle the problems and partner with the state programs in place to manage the forests which so indispensably advantage us all.

Stephanie N. Selden
Stony Lane Farm
Petersham

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