Much like our ever-changing forested landscape, our societal values towards land conservation evolved over time. Throughout most of the 19th century, the country experienced an era of land exploitation, in which many of its forests were harvested and cleared for timber and agricultural resources. During this time, people saw the negative effects of resource depletion. Many wildlife species became extinct or were extirpated from New England. Hunting groups, such as The Boone and Crocket Club, began to see the need to conserve forested lands to sustain wildlife.
With the dawning of the 20th Century came an era of burgeoning conservation, as societal appreciation for use and preservation began to rise. Never before had the country seen such bold environmental legislation as in the days of Theodore Roosevelt and his contemporaries. After two world wars and the Great Depression, Americans found more time for leisure and recreation became a popular and sought after activity . We sought places to visit and wanted our outdoor experience to match our expectations. As people ventured into forests that had been preserved in the earlier part of the century, an environmental movement was born. Through the 1970’s environmental legislation such as the clean water act, the endangered species act, and many others, sought to protect natural resources.
In the last several decades, a new era of land management has risen out of the movement known as the era of public involvement. But with public involvement comes great public responsibility. In today’s world of fast-paced media and aggressive advertisement campaigns, it is paramount that the environmentally conscious and publicly involved citizenry be well informed on natural resource issues and policy.
Today Massachusetts is faced with numerous decisions regarding the future of forest management on state lands. From proposed biomass plants to moratoriums on commercial harvests, never before has there been such controversy surrounding practices in our state. In this time of decision it is important for residents of the Pioneer Valley to educate and inform themselves on all sides of these important issues.
Through the Pioneer Valley Institute many programs are offered to the public on a variety of forest educational topics. Previous topics included Sustainable Forestry with Jay Healy, owner of Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont and Tree Identification programming at Trustees of Reservation property’s Doane’s Falls. In the coming spring season many additional programs and talks will be presented, each one aimed to allow the people of the Pioneer Valley to learn about and explore that vast wealth of natural resources. With these unique presentations, the public will be encouraged to become actively informed and responsibly engaged in the future of the Pioneer Valley.
By Kate Marquis and Jeff Hutchins