Op-Ed: With climate change, we may witness sequoia forests convert to chaparral
I grew up in southwestern Vermont and have always wanted to tell the story of an early-to-mid-20th century forest service program and its devastating impacts on watersheds. But it wasn’t until I started working with colleagues from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that I learned the story of the early-mid 20th century’s “lost forests.”
As one of the most important watersheds for water supply and recreation in the Northeast, the headwaters of the Swift River, which flows from the northeast corner of Vermont to Lake Champlain, lies on the boundary between the Adirondack and Range Forest. Adirondack Forest protects 2.5 million acres of land within the northeastern third of Vermont, while Range Forest protects 1.6 million acres of land in the northeastern corner of the state. The two forests are considered as one large stand of forests because their borders run through the same watershed.
The Adirondacks are home to 1,000 species of trees, which together make up about 70 percent of our national heritage. The forests of the Range and Adirondacks are home to about 400 species and about 10 percent of our national heritage. And these forests are highly vulnerable.
For years, a handful of logging companies owned and operated by the Adirondack & North West Forest Industries Association (ANWFIA) was the state’s largest privately owned forest-industry employer, with over 50,000 employees.
Through a program known as the Adirondack Project, ANWFIA funded nearly 400 million dollars to “restore” the former Range Forest watershed between the Adirondacks and Vermont. It is estimated that through the 1980s, this program saved 2,000 jobs through the purchase of new lumber and through the sale of timber.
However, the program became unsustainable with the rise of commercial forestry and logging operations and the “marketization” of the forests. Over the years, logging companies have cut thousands of acres of prime timber. At the same time, over the period 1985-2016, ANWFIA purchased close to 80 percent of the annual timber harvest. Today, the Ad