Going back to the 1800’s, 75% of the forestland in the region was held by three major wood product companies that provided locals with jobs and access to the beautiful lakes and mountain peaks.
Today the Mahoosucs are in transition. Some of the lands have been posted to trespassers while others have been stripped of their forests or developed, and some look the same but are under new ownership. While some changes are visible on the land, the reason for the change - a complex story of Wall Street investors, a growing outdoor movement and complex tax laws is not visible on the landscape but will have a marked impact on the future of forestry in the region.
Over the past six months, OSI has been working to understand the story of this ownership shift in the Mahoosucs, and what might come next. Our initial research, conducted in partnership with the local Mahoosuc Initiative indicates that between 1980 and 2007 the forest product companies sold off the entirety of their land to a new wave of owners with diverse interests and motivations.
Unlike Dillon, many of the new owners practice exemplary forestry; like Dillon, they’re not in the Mahoosucs for the long haul. Our research predicts that most owners will own their land for between 10 and 15 years before selling and most will subdivide their land before sale, further fragmenting ownership and management of the landscape.
The Open Space Institute will be working with key stakeholders, policymakers and conservation organizations to complete this research in 2008. A key goal of this work is to find ways to partner with these new owners to keep healthy forests part of the region’s future.