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Forest Canopies (Not Just Urban Ones) Are Shrinking

I just read a good article about the shrinking forest canopy in all six New England states in the Harvard Gazette. We knew that urban forest canopies were on the decline overall but the news that actual forest cover is decreasing after a consistent 150 year-long expansion is worrisome.

The report containing these findings, “Wildlands & Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape,” was authored by over 20 researchers from 12 different institutions and stresses the need for more aggressive conservation efforts. The report has set the target goal of conserving 70% of the region’s forests from development over the next 50 years.

The forest canopy is in decline largely due to urban and suburban sprawl, as well as the parcelling out of small tracks of land for second home developments. The report brings up an interesting (and perhaps unusual) facet of conservation, which is the opportunity that an individual has to contribute to this goal. While we tend to think of conservation efforts as something only a few highly-trained experts can spearhead, in this case much of the effort will need to be on a volunteer basis, mainly on the part of private landowners.

“We’ve been given a second chance to determine the future of the region’s forests. This report calls attention to the pressing need to couple New England’s existing conservation capacity and shared land ethic with a vision for the next century in which forests remain an integral part of our livelihoods,” said David Foster, lead author of the report and Director of the Harvard Forest.

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