FSC-Watch has several times in the last eighteen months reported on the FSC-certified ‘chainsaw massacre’ taking place in the state forest lands of Massachusetts, USA. Managed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), 285,000 acreas of forest had been certified by California-based Scientific Certification Systems Inc (SCS) since 2004.
The Massachusetts DCR certificate ‘disappeared’ in April 2009, without any explanation from the FSC or the certifier. DCR Commissioner Richard Sullivan has claimed that there was simply a ‘gap’, in reissuing the certificate and that “because of the timing for the application for re-certification, it was known from the outset that the certification would lapse.”
However, a new report by local TV company The Boston Channel has raised further questions about why the Department of Conservation and Recreation (formerly the equally euphemistically-named Department of Environmental Management) was ever certified in the first place, and whether it would be re-certifiable.
The Boston Channel’s Team 5 investigative journalists focused on a plot of forest that had been granted to the state by the Zimmer family in memory of some of their relatives, on condition that it was permanently protected. Instead, the DCR felled it, and continued doing so even when requested by the Zimmer family to stop.
In the report below, it is also pointed out that Massachusetts taxpayers paid up to $2 million for the certification. Because of FSC’s commercial confidentiality arrangements, it is not possible to know how much of this ended up in the pockets of FSC-accredited certifier SCS.
(Full report, with video clips, here)
State Betrays Family’s Trust, Cuts Down Trees: Massachusetts Admits Errors In Timber Harvests
One family’s trust has been betrayed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the state agency in charge of protecting forests and parks, Team 5 Investigates reported Friday.
NewsCenter 5’s Sean Kelly reported that DCR is finally admitting that it should not have harvested land for timber when it was given to the state for the sole purpose of public enjoyment.
Fifteen years ago, Raymond Zimmer donated a 30-acre lot in Chesterfield to the state of Massachusetts in memory of his late wife and three of their nine children who died earlier.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation began harvesting timber on the property earlier this year after a cutting plan was approved by town officials in Chesterfield.
Zimmer’s children told Team 5 their father never intended the property to be harvested for timber and point to language in the property deed that prohibits the removal or destruction of trees.
“I can state without reservation that the specific wish and intent of the trust donating the land was that the property was for public enjoyment in its natural condition,” said William Zimmer, Raymond Zimmer’s son.
But that’s not what Team 5 Investigates found happening. According to DCR, the state has already been paid $7,210 for the wood that has been cut down. “It shouldn’t have happened, it has happened and it’s a result of a complete lack of oversight and accountability in the Bureau of Forestry,” said Chris Matera of Massachusetts Forest Watch.
The family asked the state to stop all logging on the property, but it refused. DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan now concedes the state should not have logged the property. “We didn’t do it intentionally to not follow the wishes of the family. We’ll make sure going forward that that type of thing doesn’t happen on that property, or any other property,” Sullivan said.
This isn’t the first time DCR destroyed state parks and forests it was supposed to protect. Earlier this year, Team 5 Investigates found signs threatening prosecution for tree cutting were being ignored. Tombstones in a historical cemetery near Savoy State Forest were knocked over by the weight of falling timber, and healthy trees were slashed into thousands of debris covered acres.
All of the damage occurred while DCR claimed its forestry management practices were among the best in the nation.
The logging occurred under the watch of the Forest Stewardship Council, an international organization that claims to promote the responsible management of forests.
Team 5 Investigates obtained an audit by auditors for FSC that shows the state has finally lost its FSC certification. “I’m not surprised the state lost its certification. Their logging was so bad, so egregious, I don’t see how they could have possibly kept it,” said Matera.
Taxpayers paid more than $2 million to qualify for that certification. Commissioner Richard Sullivan said the department will now do everything it can to get that certification back and make sure taxpayer money wasn’t wasted.
“Are you willing to admit now that mistakes were made?” asked Kelly. “Mistakes were made. I am interested in correcting the mistakes and moving forward and making sure they don’t happen again,” answered Sullivan.
The Commissioner’s response doesn’t satisfy critics who insist there’s no need to pay an international body to protect state forests because state laws are more than adequate.