Sabadosa files bill to expand public’s say in state logging plans

  • Wendell State Forest Alliance member Bill Stubblefield, in foreground, speaks to a crowd at a gathering in the Wendell State Forest in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS


  • The Wendell State Forest looking west along Montague Road, as seen in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Access point to Wendell State Forest on Laurel Drive, as seen in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Hemingway Road in Wendell State Forest, as seen in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2021

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa has filed a bill the Wendell State Forest Alliance penned in hopes of ensuring state agencies’ accountability for environmental impacts, carbon accounting and public participation in projects they approve.

The Northampton Democrat submitted HD.3685, an “Act to Ensure Accountability and Public Rights Regarding Commercial Tree Harvesting on Commonwealth-Owned Lands.” Any person or group of people can draft a bill, but only an elected representative or senator can introduce it in the Legislature. The Wendell State Forest Alliance is a grassroots organization that has opposed logging in the state forest and says it’s dedicated to protecting the health of state-owned forests.

If signed into law, the bill would reinforce the state requirements of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and the Global Warming Solutions Act. Also, it would grant the public the legal right to participate in every stage of the planning for all commercial tree harvesting projects on state-owned land, as well as the legal standing required to seek remedy through the courts.

The drive to draft this bill was propelled by Franklin County Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey’s dismissal last year of a lawsuit brought by 29 residents alleging several state laws and regulations were broken with the logging of 100-year-old oak trees on an 80-acre stand in Wendell State Forest in the summer of 2019. The defendants were the state Department of Conservation and Recreation; DCR Commissioner Leonard Roy; Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; and William Hill, director of the state’s Public Lands/Management Forestry Program. The logging was completed about a year and a half  ago.

Wendell State Forest Alliance member Gia Neswald, who was a co-plaintiff in the dismissed lawsuit, said she and the others feel as though “the judge instructed us to do this, so this is us following up.”

The Turners Falls resident said the bill’s objective is to hold the government accountable and increase public involvement in public land decisions.

“The process has no teeth,” Neswald said. “So we’ve written in some teeth.”

Fellow alliance member Bill Stubblefield of Wendell said he wants to guarantee a large public voice when it comes to the management of taxpayer-funded land. He and Neswald said they are optimistic about the bill’s future.

“It’s the people’s land, and we are the people,” Neswald said, “although it was stolen from the First People that were here before colonization.”

Neswald said Wendell State Forest Alliance members are launching a campaign to recruit other state legislators to support the bill. Attempts to reach Sabadosa for comment were unsuccessful Thursday. 

The text of the bill can be found at: bit.ly/3cyJMKB. More information is available at wendellforest.org or by contacting the Wendell State Forest Alliance at wendellstateforest@gmail.com.