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This week: Audit Substantiates Concerns About Quabbin Forestry; Food Bank Faces "Perfect Storm"; and Skip the Meat

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Audit Substantiates Concerns About Quabbin Forestry

I have been following the letters and comments in the Valley Advocate that began in response to the request by Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts that citizens support their petition to the Governor to ban commercial logging in the forests of the Quabbin Reservoir. (March 9, 2012)

Some comments in defense of logging insist that logging has been accepted at the Quabbin for 50 years. However, those who make this argument fail to acknowledge that the management plans for aggressive polka dot clear-cuts of recent years that have ignited a widespread public outcry are not typical of all forestry during those 50 years.

Forestry at the Quabbin was granted Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) "Green Certification" in the '90s and through April of 2009. There were ongoing citizen concerns that green certification was not guaranteeing the quality forestry the citizens of Massachusetts expected with that title. Given FSC generous sympathies for the time, resources and mistakes it takes to improve forestry, it is all the more significant that auditors for the FSC found fault with the Quabbin watershed forestry in 2009 and placed serious "corrective action requests" (CARs) upon the state during the recertification assessment. [Editor's note: To see the FSC audit, go to valleyadvocate.com/mis/pdfs/FSC-SCS-Report-2009.pdf]

The concerns raised in the 2009 auditor's report were significant. It is notable that forestry on Massachusetts public lands was not deemed eligible for certification for having "well managed forests" in 2009 and has not been FSC certified since that time. The FSC audit of forestry at the Quabbin to demonstrate that criticisms of the forestry by concerned citizens, Massachusetts Forest Watch and Environment Massachusetts are not just of isolated incidents, nor are they radical or unfair. They are substantiated by independent forestry auditors.

Claudia Hurley
Westfield

*

Food Bank Faces "Perfect Storm"

Because of the slow economic recovery, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our 350-plus member agencies are facing a perfect storm. Unrelenting high demand for emergency food assistance persists in the midst of rising food costs. Despite this sobering reality, two vital anti-hunger programs are at risk of inadequate funding in the upcoming state budget for next fiscal year beginning July 1st: the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).

To make matters worse, The Food Bank of Western Mass. is receiving almost 50 percent less food from the federal government than it did last year. This translates into approximately 600,000 fewer meals for the 110,000 individuals in Western Massachusetts who still rely on food assistance in any given month.

On May 16, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means plans to unveil its budget recommendations for FY 2013. In order to more effectively meet the needs of the community, The Food Bank asks our neighbors concerned about hunger in their communities to call on their state senators to increase  spending for MEFAP for all four food banks in the Commonwealth from the proposed $12.5 million to a much needed $15 million. Due to rising food prices, The Food Bank of Western Mass. had 15 percent less MEFAP to distribute in the first 6 months of this fiscal year than during the same period the year before. As a result, individuals received an average of 16 percent less MEFAP food. MEFAP is a reliable source of staples such as meat, eggs and local fresh produce that are rarely donated in sufficient quantities.

We're grateful to Representatives Kocot (Northampton), Kane (Holyoke) and Farley-Bouvier (Pittsfield) for spearheading a $500,000 increase in the House budget. However, food security for tens of thousands of people now rests with the Senate, which can approve the higher MEFAP increase necessary to combat hunger across the entire state.

Similarly, The Food Bank urges readers to contact their state senators to increase funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance's case worker account to the $64.2 million proposed in the Governor's budget. Anything less falls far too short of what is needed to ensure that eligible households receive vital SNAP benefits without overwhelming food banks and the emergency food network. Not only does SNAP provide a family with additional funds exclusively for food purchases, it also injects hundreds of millions of federal dollars into Massachusetts local businesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that for every $5 in SNAP monies spent more than $9 is generated in local economic impact.

For moral and economic reasons, we shouldn't turn our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors —children and elders—as well as job seekers and struggling working households who are making painful decisions between paying for prescriptions, rent or food.

Our food insecure neighbors need your help. Visit www.foodbankwma.org and click on our Take Action page to find all the information you need to contact your state senator. A call from even one individual can have an enormous impact. Please, contact your senator today and tell them to support increases for these programs, and fight hunger in our community.

Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

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Skip the Meat

The number of Americans considered obese is expected to rise from the current 34 percent to 42 percent by the year 2030, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and discussed at Monday's "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington. Diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, and other obesity-related ailments account for countless premature deaths and as much as 18 percent of the $2.6 trillion national cost of medical care.

The leading causes of obesity are consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and lack of exercise. This is particularly critical during childhood years, when lifestyle habits become lifelong addictions.

A five-year Oxford University study of 22,000 people, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006, found that those on a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least weight. A review of 87 studies in Nutrition Reviews concluded that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.

The time has come to replace meat and dairy products in our diet with wholesome grains, vegetables, and fruits and to undertake a regular exercise program. Parents should insist on healthy school lunch choices and set a good example at their own dinner table.

Eddie Buster
Easthampton

 

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MAKE QUABBIN RESERVOIR A BIOSPHERE RESERVE!

I have just finished reading the letters to the Advocate from the last few months concerning logging at Quabbin Reservoir. There are some salient points I would like to mention to readers that may help them to grasp this ongoing debate. Claudia Hurley has reminded all of us who value wilderness (accidental or not) that Massachusetts is divided on the management of Quabbin. I agree that commercial logging proceeds should never have been returned to DCR Boston. That money should have been held in a fund specifically intended for afforestation of paved over urban landscapes endemic of cities all over the state and never returned to the middle managers at DCR in the form of salaries. What objective management decisions for forest management can be made in Boston, when half a million dollars in funds are produced by cutting trees at Quabbin?

I've read the previous letters as well, some from people living in Shutesbury. They are the priviledged "Haves" and don't speak for the "Have Nots" who live here as well. In fact, the folks from Shutesbury you heard from are the local 1%ers, either employees of DCR at Quabbin, or members of boards in Shutesbury, or forestry professors at Umass, who have benefitted over the years from DCRs classist agenda that has never benefitted blue collar workers with anything more than unbenefitted, temporary, seasonal employment and permeate local insider politics. Should logging be halted? The question you should ask is, is logging the only management tool DCR foresters should be provided with? What happened to the ethics of the CCC? Is natural regeneration of forests after they have been harvested good enough to maintain biodiversity when Chris Matera's photos (some say overly dramatic ones) show how logging has removed forbes en mass from the understory? Why should we care if DCR has said all along their main concern is water quality? Because as the news coverage of the debate has shown, neither the activists nor the defenders of logging at Quabbin can tell you for certain what species have been diminished or improved and what impact on the ecosystem within the watershed harvesting has had. Water quality is always mentioned, but rarely the emotional view of folks who just find the sight of a removed forest offensive. Neither is it ok to just dismiss the fact that jobs have been lost at Quabbin and careers ruined over this debate. My career was an example of such a loss and I've been unemployed for nearly three years since with no help from either side.

I know the invasive plant population has impacted the ecology within the gates and will publish on the subject this fall while enrolled at Umass Amherst's graduate school, using data I collected as a DCR employee from 2007-2009. Reports that were ignored by my supervisor's supervisors in Boston because it described a catastrophe looming in the future. There is really only one workable solution for the Quabbin made clear by Harvard Forest's research. The forests of Massachusetts will continue to be fragmented by overdevelopment during the next century, regardless of poor, underbudgeted efforts by DCR to manage state lands. What we have lost already is uncertain because no one took the time to document all the species that were here before and I speak of things as tiny as the Q microbe discovered in Quabbin pond sediment. Both sides of the debate are firm in their "faith" that they are righteous in their professional views, yet the state's forests continue to be overwhelmed by human uses and worst of all, hidden behind rusty fences that speak of the 1950s attitude of where our state's political leadership in Boston's priorities lie.

Some say we need to sustainably harvest biomass from the forests and it can be done without ruining the ecology. I say we should listen to them and build local cooperative pellet mills here in western MA. There are good forestry people capable of doing such work here in Western MA, but not running our natural resource agencies based in Boston. Not without input from the very activists they have been pitted against by those in the east who would enslave us by denying any hope of revitalizing Western MA forestry with a new bioenergy industry respectful of environmentalist concerns and uncontaminated with MA DOERs bad science.

We need to make the Quabbin a biosphere reserve just so we can fully understand it's ecology and be able to replicate it in the future. Because even if you don't have "faith" that global warming will change how we live, those changes are upon us now, just ask someone living in last year's tornado path, or where trees have been removed to stop the spread of the Asian Long Horned Beetle. We can not predict how important learning to live amongst the forests of Massachusetts will be to future citizens, but neither can we in Western MA forget our blue collar heritage of forestry that gave us the accidental wilderness.

Don Wakoluk

Discredited DCR scientist

Shutesbury MA

Posted by Don Wakoluk on 5.24.12 at 8:21
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