Partnership is good for landowners, environment

Monday, March 12, 2018

I am writing in support of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership. Meetings for the first two years centered on the establishment of a conservation restriction document and a process for the purchase of CRs from willing sellers on private lands within the 20-town region.

The CRs would be held by local land trusts. This region is dominated by private landowners whose responsible stewardship provide the clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty and carbon sequestration at little or no cost to the public. These landowners recognize the importance of the “public values” in private lands.

MTWP is an effort to create opportunities for landowners who have an interest in capturing a portion of the development value in their lands without having to convert the forest into development uses. This northwest corner of Massachusetts has very few opportunities for conservation funding. The partnership committee’s interest in examining opportunities for harvested wood products, which come from the sustainable management of these forest lands, was an outgrowth of the interest in conservation for these forests. Once the development opportunity is removed, landowners can benefit from technical assistance provided by professional foresters and ecologists to ensure sustainable practices and objectives are accomplished, including wilderness management.

In this manner, the forest can continue to provide the public benefits we all seek. Annual contributions to participating towns to support public services is also included. This has been a very collaborative process including representatives of the towns, land trusts, county planning agencies, the state and U.S. Forest Service as well as professional foresters, environmental groups and forest landowner representatives. As a founder of the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the Northeast Wilderness Trust, I can appreciate and respect all the various interests people have in the forest, and hope others will as well.

Keith Ross