What makes clear cutting such a loaded issue here in the Northeast for people in the environmental community is that those in the timber community who loudly promote clear cutting as being carbon neutral have no real intention of following through with good silvicultural practices thereafter to make it happen. Who knows what the situation will be 40 to 50 years from now on a piece of land that gets clear cut today. If history holds true, just as soon as the growing stock accrues a little economic value, it will get whacked again. Those promoting clear cutting as being carbon neutral invoke corporate pseudo-science, and simply flat out lie about their intentions.
We have the small percentage, which certainly includes you, of silviculturists who earnestly try to do a good balancing act, i.e. do what is right for forest health from an economic standpoint while paying attention to biodiversity and ecological imperatives - and you fully intend to follow this prescription with long term vision. Your approach can include a variety of silvicultural prescriptions, including as you point out, a little clear cutting - as a last choice. But alas, we have the remaining practitioners, the loud majority who constantly milk our woodlands for all their worth until they're worth nothing and then promote the notion that the problem was created by pesky environmentalists not allowing them to do their job. An example of this is the fuss made over the explosion of red maple in the Northeast as addressed in the mid-1990s and attributed to a lack of forest management as opposed to the real reason - rampant high grading.
In less direct ways than you, I find myself caught in the maelstrom. Environmentalists, whom I know, are set to resist virtually any forest management on public lands, while on the other side, DCR may cave into the timber lobby by failing to require (and explain to the public) truly good long term forestry. Like Yogi used to say it's deja vu all over again. As you know, the prescription for Massachusetts woodlands is part actively managed forests, partly reserves, and partly parks. If DCR would just promote good long term, sustainable forestry on the lands to be actively managed, a new era of good public forestry woukd be ushered in. Hopefully, the environmental community would then come on board to support DCR, but, I'm not holding my breath.
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre