The animals and plants that make this region home have already begun feeling the effects of climate changes that bring elevated temperatures, more intensive storms, and shifts in breeding and growing seasons. Ecologist Pete McKinley at The Wilderness Society is considering how to build and manage a system of protected lands that allows nature to adapt to changing conditions in a particular place, or to adjust by moving up in elevation or north in latitude. His research supports a portfolio approach to land management that includes ecological reserves as well as areas of active management that together help minimize rapid and permanent loss of biological diversity. The map at right shows Dr. McKinley’s selection of Category I lands (“observation zones” or reserves where there is minimal human disturbance and nature is allowed to adapt on its own), along with connecting lands classified as Category II and Category III. Category II and III lands may include restoration zones where active management can reverse past damage and innovation zones
where experimental treatments might take place to support adaptation.
Some species in the Mahoosuc region are particularly vulnerable to climate change. These include the pine marten, which prefers mature coniferous forests likely to shrink in extent during the coming decades. High elevation birds like Bicknell’s thrush are also vulnerable because they can’t retreat any further up the mountains as habitat zones shift to higher elevations. This map shows the importance of the Mahoosuc region as a link between habitat used by these species in the White Mountains and Maine’s High Peaks region to the northeast. These areas are likely among the best places for these and other northern species to remain viable, thus buying time for adaptation in place or movement within and across the landscape.
Past Research Archives
The Mahoosuc Initiative launched its efforts in 2007 by sponsoring a local research team to complete a Mahoosuc Region Resources Report. The report summarized local land use and planning goals, ecological and cultural values, and trends in the timber and tourism economies. Although some data are somewhat out-of-date, the regional history and trends documented in this report remain valid today.
An Executive Summary touches on highlights from the Resources Report and introduces the Mahoosuc Initiative to the public.
The following year, the Open Space Institute took a deeper look at one of the trends noted in the initial report – the accelerating turnover of large-scale land ownerships. Changes in the Mahoosuc region follow the trend seen across the four-state Northern Forest region. Historic paper company ownerships are selling land, primarily to private timber investors. When it comes time to realize profits through resale, these properties are often subdivided into smaller parcels, with some prime sites selected for development.
Another trend first documented in the 2007 resource report was the growing interest in wood-based energy. When competing proposals for electricity and wood pellet production bubbled up within the region, the Mahoosuc Initiative helped inform local choices by summarizing the pros and cons of alternative wood energy options.