Old Growth Forests
When European settlers first arrived in New England, they found a land covered with ancient forests. The old trees were soon felled. By the turn of the twentieth century most of Massachusetts was cleared. A decline in agriculture enabled forests to re-sprout in abandoned pastures and fields, but only a vestige remains of the uncut original. Old-growth forests survive in Massachusetts - but just barely.
Most forests in Massachusetts are second generation and fairly uniform in age at between 60 and 100 years. In contrast, the defining factor in old-growth stands is that they have not been impacted by human activity but rather have been shaped by nature and allowed to develop over centuries.
Associated with old growth forests are so-called "buffer zones." These are forest areas adjacent to the old growth which need to be protected because of the small size of many of the old growth parcels. Without the buffer zones the old growth tracts may lack critical mass to remain healthy and ecologically diverse. Also important to protect are so called "future old growth" forests. These are forests that were cut so long ago that the second growth is developing old growth characteristics.
Massachusetts state lands contain over 3000 acres of old growth forest and over 5000 acres of old growth, buffer zones, and future old growth forest, which would likely be included in old growth reserves pursuant to the Old Growth Forest Bill.