I read an interesting story in the Boston Globe on Sunday about the reforestation of New England and the related return of wildlife to our region.
According to Harvard research, New England is now the most heavily forested region in the United States. “Today, 80 percent of New England is covered by forest or thick woods. That is a far cry from the mere 30 to 40 percent that remained forested in most parts of the region in the mid-1800s, after early waves of settlers got done with their vast logging, farming, and leveling operations.”
The great naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, didn’t think the New England wilderness could ever recover.
“…some creatures of fur and feather have returned at astonishing speed — herds and flocks where there were just remnant populations; clear evidence of ecosystem revivals occurring over decades or even years, instead of centuries.
‘Maybe it’s because we got so far away [from nature], most of us truly appreciate seeing it back.’
“Native animals, such as beaver and moose — which the settlers shot out, trapped out, or drove to impenetrable thickets on the far fringes — are thriving again. Deer were down to several hundred in Massachusetts at the outset of the 20th century; today, the white-tailed population in the state tops 85,000.
“Bears are back in business in a big way, too, their numbers hitting all-time records in some places. Also newly abundant are gray seals, eagles, and once-rare pileated woodpeckers that now rat-a-tat on old-growth trees right at the edge of Boston. Dive-bombing hawks are an almost ho-hum suburban spectacle.
“The changes seem more dramatic and enduring in this region than anywhere else in the United States, say many biologists, conservationists, and other wildlife watchers.
“The forest recovery is especially breathtaking. New England is a supreme example of forest comeback,’’ said David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest, the university’s 106-year-old center for forestry research whose scientists work in 3,500 acres of wooded tracts and laboratories headquartered in Petersham.”