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Staff from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) are working toward addressing climate change impacts at a regional and site-specific level by implementing forest management within the Scott Road project area.

The 3 main management topics of this project are: Riparian Zones, Early Successional Grass/Shrubland and Young Forest Habitat, and Northern Hardwood forest types. The major climate impacts in the project area include: (1) more frequent and more intense precipitation events; (2) increased temperatures and milder/shorter winters; (3) anticipated increases in disturbances from insect pests and forest diseases. Multiple adaptation approaches and tactics will be used to address these climate impacts; one strategy that is particularly relevant is maintaining and enhancing species and structural diversity, which also increases resilience to disturbances.

Project Area

Map of project area
This project is located on the western edge of Kenneth Dubuque State Forest in Savoy, Massachusetts, which is currently managed under the Western Connecticut Valley Forest Resource Management Plan. In addition, this project works towards fulfilling the goals and objectives in the Massachusetts Forest Action Plan. This 175-acre project area consists of an 8-acre abandoned field containing an early successional white pine & birch-aspen mix invading the previously open field. This project area also includes a 35-acre stand of aspen, along with a mixture of hardwood and softwood forest types including northern hardwoods, hemlock-hardwoods, and white pine-hardwoods. Multiple riparian zones are also present. Implementing this project will provide a unique opportunity to enhance and restore early successional grass/shrubland and young forest habitat for wildlife.

Management Goals

The key goal of the Scott Road Landscape Scale Restoration Project is to restore and maintain early successional and young forest habitat for wildlife. Objectives associated with this goal include: (1) Increasing the acreage of young forest habitat and aspen regeneration through 5-acre patch cuts and clear cuts; (2) Maintaining an 8-acre abandoned field and reclaiming field edges as early successional grass/shrubland habitat through mechanical mowing and prescribed fire on a 5-year cycle. The second management goal is to protect and enhance the riparian forest zones located within the project area. Each of these riparian zones falls within a hemlock-hardwood forest type. Objectives include: (1) Maintaining moist conditions and adequate stream shading; (2) Increasing species diversity and structural complexity. The third goal for this project is to increase the age class, structural, and compositional diversity of the ~60 acres of the project area comprised of a northern hardwood forest type. The objective for this goal is to (1) Increase gaps in the forest canopy through group selection and patch cut harvesting, adding an entire new forest age class.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:

  • Increased winter precipitation, along with the warming climate that favors rain over snow, could increase stream flow in riparian zones during the winter months. A reduction in snowpack and increased winter runoff may reduce groundwater recharge.
  • Warmer winter temperatures in New England and fewer days with a minimum temperature below 32°F will likely lead to the range expansion and abundance of non-native forest insects and pests such as Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.
  • More frequent intense heavy rain and extreme storm events could lead to more severe flooding, an increase in stream bank soil erosion, and reduce soil water infiltration.
  • The extent of young forest is declining, reducing the amount of high-quality habitat for plants and wildlife dependent on early seral stages.
  • Aspen forest types may be vulnerable to temperature increases and moisture stress from climate change.
  • Insect pests and diseases may have more negative impacts on managed aspen stands under climate change.
  • Forest productivity in New England and northern New York will increase during the next several decades in the absence of significant stressors.
  • Changes in herbivore populations may have substantial effects on forest growth and composition in northern hardwood forests.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Warmer winter temperatures and fewer days with minimum temperatures below 32°F will likely lead to the range expansion and abundance of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. This insect pest is expected to increase the mortality of hemlocks within riparian zones.
Hydroclimatic changes are likely to lead to a decrease in soil moisture.
Undisturbed filter strips provide reserves for organisms during and after harvesting is conducted. With changes in moisture regimes and more severe storms, these areas may have as much or more disturbance than the areas being harvested.
Projected warmer temperatures can drive or enhance drought-induced mortality. Drought conditions can also interact with other forest stressors, such as the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid to cause tree death.
Aspens typically regenerate by root suckers, but may also regenerate by seed if moist, bare mineral soil is available. Increased moisture deficit may inhibit regeneration by seed.
Warmer winter temperatures and less snow may limit harvest access during the preferred winter months. This is especially a challenge within aspen stands, as root suckers grow the fastest when harvests are done during the dormant season.
Altered precipitation could limit prescribed burning windows during the warmer months.
The probability of extreme precipitation/wind events damaging the mature aspen stand currently present only increases with time. This limits opportunities for intentional management to create a younger, more resilient forested ecosystem.
Warming winter temperatures have the potential to produce more ice than snow, resulting in more tree damage across large areas. This could have significant impacts to long-term forest management planning.
Increased winter precipitation and wind events could make group selection openings larger than intended during the rotational period, affecting the recruitment of regeneration and the structural and compositional diversity.


An increase in severe weather events associated with climate change has the potential to increase the structural complexity, microclimatic conditions, and wildlife habitat within riparian zones through natural processes.
The greater diversity of species, and the vigor associated with young forest, make it more resilient to environmental stress than old forests.
Warming temperatures and drier conditions during the growing season could allow for more windows of opportunities to perform prescribed burning.
The project area has a shorter growing season and lower productivity than other areas of MA. A longer growing season may equate to more productive wildlife habitat, shorter rotations, and faster establishment of new forest age classes.
Changes in moisture regimes and temperatures may reduce the occurrence and/or density of nuisance natives such as American Beech, as beech is very drought sensitive.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Riparian Zones
Promote a diversity of tree and plant species to increase stream shading, increase the structural complexity by providing a source of woody debris, stabilize the soil, and provide habitat for wildlife.
Riparian Zones
No harvest buffer strips along streams and within riparian zones will give the existing hemlock component (shade tolerant species) a chance to regenerate slowly under a mostly closed canopy.
Early Successional Habitat
Increase the area of younger-age patches, and add an entire age class, by conducting group selection and patch cut harvesting now and potentially again in 5-20 years.
Early Successional Habitat
Restore and maintain young forest habitat through patch cuts and clear cuts within the 35-acre aspen forest stand.
Early Successional Habitat
Retain trees on the edge of clearcuts and patch cuts, to help protect overstory trees that have not been previously exposed to wind.
Northern Hardwoods
Increase the area of younger-age patches, and add an entire age class, by conducting group selection and patch cut harvesting now and potentially again in 5-20 years.
Northern Hardwoods
Retain trees on the edge of clearcuts and patch cuts to help protect overstory trees that have not been previously exposed to wind.


The Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) will continue to perform forest inventories to assess forest condition and evaluate whether management actions are accomplishing their intended effects, compared to pre-harvest conditions. Inventories will include tree species diversity, tree diameters, crown health, mortality, and to ensure harvest prescriptions were followed. Course woody debris transects will indicate whether more wood is on the forest floor after harvest. A road and trail survey will be conducted annually and after severe storms to inspect water control features to determine their effectiveness in avoiding damage associated with both natural events and recreational use; photographs taken after the forest harvest is closed out will provide a baseline for future comparison. Several monitoring items have been identified that could help inform future management including:
Measurements of the forest understory approximately every five years, quantifying the diversity, quantity, and size of regeneration/groundcover species and evaluating whether there has been sufficient regeneration of a mixture of desirable species.
Measurements of the forest overstory approximately every five years, used to assess whether the residual overstory was able to remain intact with minimal wind throw, crown damage or root damage. For riparian zones, to assess whether at least 50% canopy
CFI Plots that have been established on a ½ mile grid across all DCR lands since the 1960’s and measured every ten years, will remain part of the monitoring program that will help track forest level changes and the impacts of management activities.
Short-term and long-term wildlife monitoring (specifically bird and bat), where pre-management and post-management inventory data can be analyzed to monitor wildlife response to management activities.

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