New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day, according to a new report released today by the Harvard Forest.

 “The incremental chipping away of forest and farmland by scattered development is hard to see day-to-day but it adds up over time and represents a significant threat to the region,” said David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest. “If we stay on the current path, we’ll lose another 1.2 million acres of open land by 2060.”

In Vermont, approximately 1,500 acres of forestland are lost each year to development. Twenty-three percent of the state’s land area is currently conserved as forest and farmland.

Conversion to development is the biggest near-term threat to forests; bigger even than climate change, the scientists report: “This may seem counter-intuitive given the major threat that climate change poses to all sectors of society. But climate change slowly alters the health and types of trees that grow whereas conversion eliminates forests altogether.”

The report lays out a vision to reserve the trend by 1) conservation 2) increased conservation funding 3) putting more land to work for sustainable farming and forestry and 4) making sure conservation is part of land use planning.

“Today’s land conservation is about putting land to work to solve problems and provide an economic return to landowners while investing in nature,” said Kathy Lambert, head of the Science & Policy Project at the Harvard Forest.

See the report here: Wildlands and Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities

 

(photo by David Middleton)