Although the northeastern U.S. includes extensive areas of aggrading forest, uncertainty regarding the intensity and pattern of forest harvesting hampers an understanding of important ecological processes and characteristics such as carbon and nitrogen storage, habitat quality, and forest dynamics, and impedes regional conservation and management planning. Due to the complex ownership pattern dominated by thousands of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners and the difficulty of detecting selective logging using remote sensing, details of the harvesting regime remain largely unknown to the scientific and policy communities. To examine the value of statewide regulatory data for Massachusetts as a unique source of this critical information, we analyzed 17 years of timber harvest data gathered for regulatory purposes for a 168,000-ha forested landscape in Massachusetts that is the focus of concerted conservation planning and intensive study of landscape and ecosystem pattern and process. The North Quabbin Region is heavily wooded with a complicated ownership pattern dominated by over 2,500 NIPF owners, three state agencies, and diverse conservation and municipal holdings. The extent and intensity of harvesting were surprising, with an annual disturbance rate of 1.5% and a mean intensity of 44.7 m3 ha-1 (approximately one-fourth of average stand volume). The predominant form of harvesting was selective removal of commercially valuable tree sizes, grades and species (e.g., Quercus rubra and Pinus strobus). The spatial pattern of logging was random with regards to major physical, biological, or cultural factors. However, logging was strongly related to landowner class. NIPF owners control 60% of the forest area and were responsible for 64.1% of harvest area, but the highest logging intensity (volume per area harvested; 69.3 m3 ha-1) among major landowners was conducted by the state agency responsible for managing southern New England's largest conservation property, the watershed of Boston's drinking reservoir. This regime of chronic disturbance is occurring over the entire landscape and exerting a major influence on forest composition, dynamics, and habitat quality. However, dispersed selective harvesting is largely unnoticed by residents, is routinely overlooked by ecologists and conservationists, and would remain unrecognized in the absence of this previously unused regulatory data. These results identify the value of regional regulatory spatial information to estimate ecological trends and to assist in conservation planning. Given similarities among ownership and forest patterns for much of the northeastern U.S., we expect that the broad findings of this study to have regional application.