Forests and Farms of the Future: Two New Reports Help Shape a Sustainable New England

From our magnificent stretches of forests to our fertile, rolling farmlands, the story of New England is inseparable from the story of the land. For centuries, New Englanders have been deeply reliant on the natural landscape to sustain us. Although recent economic and development trends threaten to change this vital bond, two compelling new reports argue that we could produce 50 percent our own food and double our own wood production, boosting local economies and conserving the many climate, water, wildlife, recreation, and cultural benefits these lands provide.

The New England Forestry Foundation’s New England Forests: the Path to Sustainability report highlights 12 main benefits that forests provide and advocates for sustainably productive woodlands, while A New England Food Vision, released by Food Solutions New England and co-authored by W&W author Brian Donahue, outlines a future in which New England supports a high quality of life for its residents through fair, local, and sustainable food systems and a tripling of the current amount of farmland.  

These two reports explicitly build on the W&W vision and provide invaluable details on how to craft a sustainable future for our region,” according to David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest and lead author of Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape. “The local food and wood movements are both essential pieces of the New England sustainability puzzle as we work to conserve our landscapes, strengthen our relationship with nature, and build an enduring future for us all.”

Protected, Productive Forests

The New England population relies on forests for clean air and water, jobs, lumber products, recreation, and cultural value. New England Forests: the Path to Sustainability is a summary report based on 12 technical documents, each focused on a key benefit provided by forests.

The report calls for a shift from our current practice of importing the majority of wood used in New England from Canada, Latin America, and Asia, to a future in which the majority of our wood is sourced locally and sustainably, right here in New England. The report further suggests this type of increased productivity can occur while still preserving the beauty and myriad other values of the region’s forests. As stated in the report:

The path to sustainability depicts a forest that remains one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, continues to deliver clean water and air, supports habitat for native wildlife, provides opportunities for recreation, and forms the backdrop for our historic New England communities and a cherished way of life.”

Farms of the Future

Like forests, accessible and healthy food is vital to the social, economic, and environmental health of New England. A New England Food Vision builds upon the support of farmland in the W&W vision, encouraging tripling the current amount of farmland to 6 million acres, or 15 percent of the region. [Use figure 7 from Food Vision] With a focus on food justice, sustainability, healthy diets, and community involvement, this increase in agricultural land can be achieved while still keeping 70 percent of the region forested as called for by W&W.

A strong, productive local food system is critically important for the success of the W&W vision, which calls for the protection of land vital to the region’s traditional land-based economy, and environmental and social health,” said co-author Brain Donahue. “By taking a more sustainable approach to food production, we can help conserve New England’s valuable natural resources while encouraging a healthy regional population for today and many generations to come.”


For more information about “A New England Food Vision” visit the Food Solutions New England website