STATE SENATOR AND DOZENS OF ORGANIZATIONS LAUNCH MULTI-TOWN EFFORT TO PROTECT & CONSERVE LOCAL WOODLANDS AND WILDLIFE HABITAT
“My MassConn Woods” provides resources and guidance to private landowners, encouraging conservation and sustainable management of resilient woodlands
WALES, Mass., April 4, 2016 — Recognizing the growing challenges of protecting woodlands from threats such as suburban development and climate change, a broad coalition of stakeholders including municipal, state and federal agencies, land trusts, conservation organizations, and foresters gathered Friday, April 1 to announce the launch of “My MassConn Woods.” Focused on southern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut, the My MassConn Woods initiative aims to help family woodland owners protect wildlife habitat, clean water and other important forest values by providing resources, guidance and incentives to help them make decisions that positively impact our region.
Also in attendance and supporting the project efforts, Senator Anne Gobi (Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex) stated, “It was wonderful to see so many people at one event working on conservation in such a collaborative fashion. One of my mentors, who I shared a love of the environment with, was he late Senator Bob Wetmore, who helped to educate me on the importance of our forests. Senator Wetmore established the states first commission on forest management practices and it is great to see that important work being carried on.”
Linking this 38-town geography and more than 30 partners, the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, or “MassConn” is a Regional Conservation Partnership working across the state line to identify, protect and enhance the forested landscape of south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut.
“This landscape contains three quarters of a million acres of land, 76% of which is forested – a remarkably high amount given the population density of Massachusetts and Connecticut” said Ed Hood, Executive Director of Opacum Land Trust, based in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and Coordinator of the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership. “Most of New England’s woodlands are owned by over 200,000 private individuals, not by governments or corporations. Over the coming years, their decisions will have a huge impact on the landscape, our communities, the economy and environment – on New England’s two greatest natural resources, our forests and our fresh water.
“Our landowner base in New England is older than many other areas of the country, and a wave of land ownership transfers is expected to break over the region in the coming decade, potentially accelerating the fragmentation, or carving into smaller parcels, of our remaining large forests,” said Robert Perschel, Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation. “Through our landowner outreach initiative, we are building a deep understanding of our landowner audience, the resource gaps that exist and how we can work with partners to provide landowners with the information they need.”
“Woodlands are incredibly valuable to our communities, our local economies, and to the environment,” said Christine Cadigan, Sr. Manager, American Forest Foundation. “Forests provide opportunities for quiet recreation, preserving the integrity of our communities while creating habitat for wildlife and maintaining the quality of our air and water. They are also a significant buffer against the effects of a changing climate.”
The offerings to landowners range from peer networking and education opportunities to direct consultations with foresters and land protection specialists and even guidance on current use programs, finance and estate planning.
The effort is made possible by a series of grants and initiatives bringing together a broad coalition of partners, specifically:
Wildlife Conservation Society Grant to Fund Outreach to Improve Wildlife Habitat
A $250,000 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Climate Adaptation Fund, made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, has been awarded to American Forest Foundation to fund work with partners – the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership (MassConn), and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS). The partners are committed to a total $502,000 project for landowner outreach concerning climate-adapted forestry. See the news release: https://www.forestfoundation.org/conservation-grant-press-release
“Creating a Peer Landowner Network”
The MassConn Regional Conservation Partnership, in collaboration with the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, has been awarded $217,700 in funding from the United States Forest Service, through its State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration Program, for a $444,700 public outreach and education program, in a region stretching from the Connecticut to the New Hampshire state lines. Working with multiple partners, including the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Opacum Land Trust, this project will create a cohesive and sustainable network of trained peer leaders who will enhance forest stewardship, engage with private forest landowners, and design a multi-landowner, climate change resilient forest conservation project in the MassConn and North Quabbin regions. The project is slated to commence early this spring.