Good News - Northeast
Wilderness Returning
100yrs After Deforestation
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Within 100 miles of the megalopolises of New York, Philadelphia and Boston, a great regreening is underway.
A recent federal study shows that, throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic, millions of acres of forest have returned nearly a century after intensive logging and farming devastated the region's wilderness.
And the rebirth of forests has led many animals and birds to flourish throughout the Northeast, where some species hadn't been seen since the 1800s.
"This is one of the biggest environmental stories of our time, and one of the only hopeful ones going on anywhere," New York environmentalist Bill McKibben said. "It shows that if we're willing to back off, nature retains some resilience and can recover in many ways."
The Northeast has regained 23 million acres of forest since the turn of the century, according to preliminary figures in a federal study reported Sunday in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The U.S. Forest Service statistics show increases in state forest acreage of up to 46 percent since 1907.
The 10 states showing dramatic increases in forest land area are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Between 1630 and 1907, lumbermen and farmers cleared 300 million acres -- an area the size of 10 Pennsylvanias. By 1908, Pennsylvania's forest cover was reduced from 95 percent of the land to about 30 percent. In New England, the remaining forest covered as little as 20 percent of the land area.
But in the 20th century, lumber companies moved west and environmentalists pressed for better government control of the wilderness. In return, the forests have recovered. Trees are growing to maturity and underbrush is lush. Animals are back.
"There's been a huge resurgence in wildlife in New England," said Douglas MacCleery, the Forest Service's assistant director of federal forest management. "When you look at Thoreau's writings at Walden Pond-- no deer, no geese, no possums, no wolves, no cougars -- many of the things that he said there were 'no' of have come back."
In 1994, ornithologists recorded the first blackpoll warbler nest in Pennsylvania; today there are 10 nesting males in Wyoming County.
Beaver, trapped out of existence in most of the East, were reintroduced in the Adirondacks and now are thriving in Pennsylvania and much of New England. Moose are back, and there is talk of reintroducing wolves to parts of Maine and New York.
But there are continuing challenges. Much of the prime forestland of New England is up for sale, raising concerns about more logging and encroaching housing developments.
Fifteen percent of the 26 million-acre Northern Forest, which stretches from northern Maine to the Adirondacks, is for sale. And 5 percent of the state of Maine is for sale by one owner, South African paper company Sappi Ltd.
"As there is a resurgence, there is also a threat," said John Gilroy, a Vermont environmental lawyer who advises regional save-the-forest campaigns.
"The threat is that once you have a forest that comes back, there is pressure to do what you used to do: cut it down."