A Tribute to Bruce Spencer

Not many foresters have the opportunity to shape a forest as large as the Quabbin Reservation and adjacent DCR watershed lands, nor do many foresters have the unique foresight to selectively use forest practices to guide such a large forest to a healthy natural state and successfully shape its future. Bruce Spencer has done just that. There is no single management solution for the complex and varied forest cover Bruce has managed over the years. Bruce understood the effects of cultural influences—clearing, fire, grazing, and crops—and the effects of natural influences and disasters— drought, fire, flooding, beavers, deer, and moose browse, disease, hurricanes, and micro-bursts. Over the centuries, human activities have not only drastically altered the forest but have changed the condition of soils and altered the natural mix of species comprising the forest.Natural disasters have periodically added to forest disturbance. Bruce came to a forest that was recovering from intense human activities, the ravages of the 1938 hurricane, severe forest fires, plantations of red pine planted in open fields, and extensive timber salvage. His predecessors had begun the task of logging mature trees and instituting sound silviculture practices, but it was Bruce who assessed all these influences and instituted policies and practices that have shaped the maturing forests of Quabbin. I first knew the Quabbin forest in the mid-1950s when the ravages of the 1938 hurricane were still very visible and the deer population had soared with the increase of browse from the young re-growth of trees following the hurricane. There were plantations of young red pines and still open fields. I saw the effects of over browsing

“HIS MASTERPIECE IS THE QUABBIN FOREST TODAY ON THE CANVAS OF THE LANDSCAPE OF THE WATERSHED. BRUCE’S INFLUENCE WILL BE FELT FOR MANY GENERATIONS.”

by deer and the decline in the forest understory and lack of tree regeneration. There was also a marked decline in the prey species such as rabbits that were important to predators like bobcats and foxes. I witnessed the return of beavers to the region, their rapid population growth, and destruction of low-lying forests bordering wetlands and streams. Stream quality also suffered as once clear waters became polluted from beaver activity and the cooling effect of bordering trees disappeared. Controlling the deer population became essential to shaping a healthy forest and controlled deer hunts were begun under much controversy. As beavers have no natural predators in the region, damage grew with the uncontrolled population and remains a problem in many locations. Attempts to artificially control beaver populations have not been very effective. With control of the deer population, regeneration of trees soon filled the once barren understory and rabbits

and other prey species are now in abundance. Periodic selective harvests have helped provide good regeneration and produce a mixed age forest which is ideal for wildlife as well as for long term forest health. Bruce retired recently as Chief Forester at Quabbin. He leaves the Quabbin forest in a much better state than when he began as Forester. He used his skills as an artist would to create a masterpiece on canvas. His masterpiece is the Quabbin forest today on the canvas of the landscape of the watershed. Bruce’s influence will be felt for many generations. I am certainly not alone in appreciating all he has done for Quabbin’s forests. His policies and perspective will guide future foresters as they continue to manage this magnificent landscape. Thank you, Bruce, for a job remarkably well done. May you have many years ahead of you to help and guide others and to continue to shape the forest around us.

– BOB CLARK