There is a plan to have twenty one towns in Franklin and Berkshire Counties, Massachusetts designated as a national forest. A group of people have been meeting and have come up with a draft proposal. Are the best interests of taxpayers, our environment, the public's health, and our towns being represented and best served by this proposal?
We have provided a copy of the draft proposal, as well as questions, comments and studies from experts and interested citizens who did not participate in the proposal. We believe that having more than one point of view will be valuable to citizens and policy makers who will decide whether or not this is the right plan for us.
The centerpiece of this proposal includes a wood pellet manufacturer in the region, and burning wood pellets in every school. "Protecting" and "conserving" land in the proposal, in large part really means harvesting and burning wood pellets. Is this where tens of millions of dollars of the public's money should be going?
"The need for the partnership ..... grew out of discussions with private woodland owners in the 20-town area on getting federal protection to conserve forest land."
SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES...AND PELLETS
By RICHIE DAVIS
As its match for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $638,000 Mohawk Trail Woodlands Sustainable Forestry and Energy Partnership project, providing technical assistance to enhance habitat for at-risk bird and other species, deal with invasive plants, and increase carbon pollution sequestration, the state Department of Energy Resources is funding a $750,000 study to examine the sustainable supply and need for a wood-pellet factory to supply heat for schools, town buildings, and potentially
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the three-year effort will bring together the state Conservation and Recreation, Fisheries and Wildlife, Energy Resources departments together with the Mass. Forest Alliance, Mass. Woodlands Institute, Mass Audubon, Franklin Land Trust, the COG, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Mount Holyoke College and the National Resource Conservation Service. That will add another $922,000 in contributions as well as making it easier for farmers and other forest owners to access conservation programs and creating a model to demonstrate how sustainably managed forests can enhance carbon sequestration to combat climate change.
The need for the partnership, one of the first roughly 110 funded under a new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program for which there were 600 applications, grew out of discussions with private woodland owners in the 20-town area on getting federal protection to conserve forest land. Owners described a need for a streamlined process for getting technical assistance as well as for forest-based economic development in the region, according to Franklin Regional Planning Director Margaret Sloan.
That effort, which began looking at a new form of privately owned, national forest designation, is continuing with $149,000 in state funding and an advisory committee that plans to make
recommendations to the 20 towns on how to proceed."