Wachusett, located in central Massachusetts, is a public parkland and
the state’s highest peak east of the Connecticut River. The park is home
to the state’s fourth largest stand of Old Growth Forest, recognized for
its unique features and value as a historical and scientific resource.
Also located on Mt Wachusett is a commercial downhill ski area,
privately owned and operated by Wachusett Mountain Associates (WMA), who
have repeatedly proposed to expand their extremely crowded - and
extremely profitable - ski facility. The family who owns WMA (as well as
the Polar and Adirondack Beverage Corporations) leases the land form the
Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the state agency
responsible for protecting, not developing, the reservation.
Unfortunately, DCR typically approves the private developer's plans to
unnecessarily clear-cut rare forest habitat on our state parks, all for
private profit. Over eight acres of 140 year old forests have been
cleared, with more acres planned for the future.
Ski area expansion:
- Clearcutting of more than 12.5 acres of forest, including majestic
stands of 140 year old mature Northern Red Oak.
- Destruction of biologically diverse habitat within a buffer zone
for the Old Growth Forest which the state's own review process
determined should be managed in a "hand's off" fashion.
- Increased erosion and runoff from trail clearing, blasting and
- More areas of the park becoming “off limits” to hikers and other
passive users of the mountain.
- Increased damage to the Old Growth Forest from higher skier
numbers and increased snowmaking operations and edge effects caused by
wind and icing.
Is WMA's lease a fair deal?
While the average US citizen pays approx. 25% of their gross annual
income to pay mortgage or rent. The ski area developers at Mt. Wachusett
pay only 3% of their gross annual income (income approx. $10 million) to
lease 450 acres of Wachusett Mountain State Reservation from the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Action to Stop the Clearcutting
In September 2003, the Sierra Club petitioned the Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court to delay proposed forest destruction
[Download the Sierra Club petition to the
court]. The courts had earlier denied the Sierra Club's appeal for a
hearing without explanation, in turn granting final approval for
a private developer to begin the clearcutting of state forests on
publicly owned parkland. Click here to view
interactive maps demonstrating how the clear-cut violated the
state's own management plan for the reservation.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruling established a dangerous precedent
by allowing the further destruction of our public parks by a private
entity without requiring the demonstration of any public need for the
project. The ski area has already expanded several times over the past
decade, including new ski lifts, a major lodge expansion, and major
improvements made to snowmaking, lighting, and other infrastructure,
some of which occurred without environmental review. The ski area
capacity is now double what it was in 1990, and well above what was
recommended as the maximum capacity in the state’s original ski area
The current project, however, is far more devastating than any of
these past expansions. While providing only a very minimal increase in
capacity, it will create the greatest damage to the natural areas of the
reservation since the initial expansion of the ski area in the 1980’s by
the same operators. The old growth forest which surrounds the summit of
Mt. Wachusett is the fourth largest in the Commonwealth, and the largest
stand east of the Connecticut River. The old growth forest is an
exceedingly rare resource which should be held in trust for all citizens
of the Commonwealth and for future generations. The proposed clear-cut
area is directly adjacent to this area and contains spectacular northern
red oaks of 140 or more years of age – a forest type which is quite rare
Stewardship of our public lands requires an orderly process whereby
resources are first inventoried and then appropriate usage is
determined. This was in fact required by EOEA Secretary Coxe, who
mandated that a Resource Management and Protection Plan (RMPP) be
developed for the mountain prior to any approval of expansion of the ski
area. This process was never followed. Instead, the developers submitted
their own expansion plan without the benefit of an RMPP, which EOEA
Secretary Robert Durand then approved. Following this expansion
approval, the RMPP was finalized, with the certificate stating the
“[t]he mountains forested slopes are an irreplaceable natural resource…[t]he
approximate 900 acre Biodiversity Significance Overlay will be managed
in a “hands off” manner to protect the maturing forests around the
summit and allow them to regain an old growth character.”
The Biodiversity Significance Overlay is the site-specific buffer
zone for the old growth forests on Mt. Wachusett. The proposed clear-cut
area is “maturing forest” and located wholly within the buffer zone that
DEM’s own planners and scientists deemed worthy of protection. The end
result is a management plan that has been ignored and a decision made
that purports to protect forests around the summit while simultaneously
sanctioning the clearcutting of those very same forests. Such actions
are inconsistent with the proper stewardship of our public lands. Visit
our Wachusett Action Page to help prevent the further clearcutting of
our public parks.
The clearcutting of forests at Mt Wachusett State Reservation (a
publicly owned parkland) involves approximately 8 acres to relocate an
existing snowboard park, and an additional 4.5 acres of clearcutting for
“trail widening and safety improvements”. Once approval was granted the
developer chose to clear-cut eight acres for new trails for the new
snowboard park rather than to provide the allegedly needed safety
improvements to existing trails.
More images of the Clearcutting - Click on an image to enlarge it
Despite nearly a decade of studies and thousands of pages of
documents, the state nor the ski area operator ever produced a single
map for the public showing the ski area expansion in relation to the
protected areas of Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. Cross
referencing the state's documents and the ski area's proposal, we have
generated detailed maps to show you just what is at stake at Mt
Wachusett. Click on the images below to view each map full size.