“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” - Henry David Thoreau
Are you wondering what the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is? So are we. We will do our best to keep you updated. It won't be easy but we will make a big effort.
The Legislature passed the Partnership Bill. It was buried in the Environmental Bond Bill. So it never saw the light of day.
Please let these local legislators know how you feel about this bill being passed.
Sponsors of the Bill
Rep. Stephen Kulik Stephen.Kulik@mahouse.gov
Phone:617-722-2380 Fax: 617-722-2847
Rep. Paul Mark Paul.Mark@mahouse.gov
Phone: 617-722-2304 Fax: 617-626-0249
Senator Adam Hinds firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (617) 722-1625 Fax: (617) 722-1523
PLEASE GO TO " GOALS OF THE BILL ARE NOT ACHIEVABLE" for a critique of the bill and talking points.
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 were not allowed to participate in the proposal. We believed that having more than one point of view should have been be valuable to citizens and policy makers who will decide whether or not this is the right plan for us. Now the legislature has gone along with political pressures, and voted to allow the Partnership to go forward.
The centerpiece of this proposal included a wood pellet manufacturer in the region. Due to political pressure, the Partnership bill now states that a wood pellet factily can't be built directly by the Partnership. But that will not stop a major thrust of the Partnership goals from being pursued: encouraging harveting and burning "waste wood" ,turned into pellets or wood chips to be burned 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? Stay tuned.
Tuesday July 31, 2018
‘Woodlands partnership’ wins passage in Legislature
BY LARRY PARNASS
The Berkshire Eagle
Part of a bill now on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk could unlock the economic potential of Massachusetts forests in ways not seen for a century.
Or, its opponents fear, the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership could compromise thousands of acres of forests and exacerbate climate change in a misguided search for short-term gains.
Five years after it was proposed, the 21-town partnership project made it into the environmental bond bill the Legislature enacted Monday, on the penultimate day of its formal session.
Proponents, including top environmental groups, insist the partnership will help secure the future of public and private forest land in northwest Massachusetts, including 10 Berkshire County communities, while at the same time tossing out an economic lifeline to struggling local economies.
But the measure barely made it through, after becoming one of the most controversial regional proposals in the current session, generating rafts of constituent calls and letters.
Though poised to become law, the partnership will continue to evolve, as communities send representatives to the board that will oversee a range of projects and as that new outfit translates theory into practice.
The partnership’s goals are broad. It seeks both to "increase the resilience of forests" an d to provide a source of "forest products and forestry-rela! ted jobs." At the same time, the law nods to concerns about air and water quality, carbon sequestration, fish and wildlife habitat and biological diversity.
The Berkshires communities involved are Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, New Ashford, North Adams, Peru, Savoy, Williamstown and Windsor. Eleven communities in Franklin County round out the tract involved.
The partnership’s goals are broad. It seeks both to "increase the resilience of forests" and to provide a source of "forest products and forestry-related jobs."
Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, both say the measure was adjusted to respond to concerns by some that it was an effort to accelerate use of biomass as a fuel source.
The language adopted bars the partnership itself from operating a biomass facility. But the partnership as defined in the law clearly has money on its mind. It will work to tap the region’s forest resources as an economic stimulus, whether from harvesting woods or encouraging environmental tourism.
"I think we have lots of work to do to continue to improve it and address concerns," said Hin ds, who did not seek to include the measure in the Senate’s environmental bond bill. The language was incorporated from the House version of that bill when the two were reconciled in July.
The law details steps ahead to form the partnership’s board and determine its agenda. All participating communities will send representatives to the board, where they will work with a cross section of private groups, like land trusts and environmental organizations, and with state and federal agencies.
Hinds said that 18 communities expressed support for the partnership. It also won an endorsement late this month from the Commonwealth Conservation Council, whose members include Massachusetts Audubon, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and the Trustees of Reservations.
The council hailed the partnership as an "innovative model of voluntary grassroots collaboration" able to "boost both! land conservation and economic development in this region."
"[It] will help keep the region’s forests as forests, and bring new sources of funding and assistance to landowners and communities," the council wrote July 19 to the six lawmakers who made up the team reconciling the House and Senate bond bills, including Pignatelli.
Pignatelli said Monday the law was driven by needs expressed in the 21 towns. He said the House committee that first examined the measure sifted through public comments — and responded by making changes.
"We removed what seemed to be the most controversial issues," he said in a statement to The Eagle, in response to questions.
Out went references to biomass, wood as an energy source and wood-pellet production, Pignatelli said.
"The re-drafted version ... represents what the majority of people throughout the 21 communities and the original sponsors involved in the partnership support and advocated for," he said.
While overt support for biomass by the partnership was taken out, and while the definition of "sustainable forest management" notes the role of carbon sequestration, the law doesn’t blink when it comes to the money end of things.
The partnership’s purpose, the law said, includes "also providing a continuous yield of a range of useable forest products."
Towns in the affected area have two years to decide whether they want to participate. After five years, the partnership can, by a two-thirds vote of its board, decide to expand the area it covers.
A campaign’s doubts Changes in the legislature didn�! �t appease opponents.
Some of those who fought the measure remain worried that proposed "sustainable forestry" won’t materialize.
"This really is about logging," said Beth Adams of Leverett, an activist and project coordinator with the Massachusetts Forest Rescue Campaign. "Behind the scenes is the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, which is a wood-fuel lobby group."
The alliance is a member of 12 groups that make up the Commonwealth Conservation Council, which backed the project.
Adams said she has been tracking the partnership since 2014, well before legislation was filed. And after a bill arrived at the Statehouse, her group raised questions about what they saw as a play to stimulate access to public and private forests for biofuels.
She said the original version of the bill contained 80 references to pellet fuels or biomass.
"They changed some of the language after we started advocating for the climate," Adams said.
What her campaign seeks to rescue, in many ways, is the ability of forests to serve as a way to sequester carbon whose release contributes to global warming.
"The best thing to do is leave it intact," Adams said of forest properties. "We need all the forests we have to sequester carbon."
Dicken Crane, co-owner of Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton and a member of the woodlands partnership advisory council that began meeting in 2014, said provisions in the law will benefit the region’s forests, not hurt them.
"There is a lot of interest in forest protection from people who live outside of forests," said Crane, spe! aking from a cell phone Monday while out working in a hayfield.
He disputes assertions that the removal of low-grade woods for biofuels is detrimental to forests. Instead, he argues that when incorporated into modern forestry practice that includes planting of new trees, removing "weeds" can add value.
Though the partnership itself will not operate a biomass plant, landowners in participating towns will be able to tap expertise that could help support a private-sector plant. If a private enterprise is created to process pellets for stoves and heating, Crane said, that would both bring an economic shot in the arm and benefit stepped-up forest management. One of the partnership’s goals is to help provide advice to forest landowners.
The law creat es a fund that will accept donations and governmental allocations, with income used to support forest management endeavors.
"It will allow us to be able to do the kind of forestry that will increase the value of the forest — and allow us to keep [the lands] in forests."
Crane, who serves as president of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, also disputes the idea that forests have to remain untouched by human hands to do all they can to slow climate change.
He said that when wood matter falls and decays, it releases carbon. And the higher- value hardwoods removed through forestry for use in furniture building or other products could actually outlast standing trees, tempering the pace of carbon release.
Adams, the Leverett opponent of the partnership plan, counters that the deca y that takes place within forests is gradual and doesn’t have the i! mmediate impact of carbon release seen through use of biofuels.
Crane said his only misgiving about the long project is what he termed the stridency of opponents "who are determined to derail it, for reasons that are not sound."
Adams, though, is resolute in her belief that the effort is not in keeping with the state’s climate goals. She also questions whether prospective towns understand the project.
Diverse leadership In its early stages, partnership planning was guided by Thomas Matuszko, now executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and Peggy Sloan, planning director for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
Matuszko is out of the office and Sloan could not be reached for comment.
Crane sa ys that an early impetus for the project was interest shown by the U.S. Forest Service in expanding Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest into Massachusetts.
That raised concerns about federal oversight of local lands, Crane said, and spurred interest among communities in shaping their own project. The new law spells out steps that will help ensure diverse leadership of the partnership.
Crane said the federal agency has been shopping for a model of grassroots forest management that could be replicated in other regions of the country.
Proponents of the partnership believe their venture will in time be worth emulating.
"It was one that came out of the communities," Crane said. "We have worked to find common ground."
Larry Parnass can be reached at email@example.com, at @larryparnass on Tw! itter and 413496-6214.
Why the Forest Carbon Sink Is Disappearing
In the world’s tropical forests, carbon loss from small-scale disturbances like fires and minor logging is adding up, researchers say.
Recorder, The (Greenfield, MA)
January 15, 2015
After working for more than a year with woodlot owners around Franklin County and finding a need for help building
up forest health, the regional government will join 11 other organizations in a conservation project to help region’s economy — one that could even lead eventually to a wood pellet factory to help
schools and municipal buildings convert to locally produced wood heat, federal, state and regional officials announced Thursday. 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 businesses.
“This is a tremendous way to get started,” said the state’s new Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton in his first public appearance since taking office this week. “There’s so much opportunity out here to build not only on our forest stewardship ... but also the economic opportunity that comes with this, that’s just tremendous.”
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.
Involved would be Audubon’s program to enlist 140 landowners in implementing practices to increase habitat for ruffed grouse, white-throated sparrow, wood thrush and other bird species in decline.
The project area incudes 20 towns in Franklin County — stretching westward from Leyden, Shelburne and Conway, as well as northern Berkshire County, plus eight additional Hampshire and Berkshire hilltowns that hold priority habitat for at-risk species. It is 84 percent forested, with 34,000 acres on over 300 upland and valley farms that are mostly forested. About 24 percent of the region is conserved, with 12,000 acres of agricultural easements and 90,000 acres of protected forests.
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.
Meanwhile, as part of the state’s match for the federal program, the Department of Energy Resources is studying what are the available low-grade wood resources in the designated region that could be sustainably harvested, what would be the market potential for schools and municipal buildings to burn that wood and what would be the air quality implications, according to Robert Rizzo, DOER’s renewable-thermal program manager.
“We also want to get an idea of what’s been harvested over the past 10 years,” said Rizzo, adding that lands under the state’s Chapter 61 reduced tax program would be the main focus. “We’re really interested in what we can sustainably remove from the forest to improve it for many of its functions, from timber to wildlife and water quality. We also want to look at what does that mean as far as the forest’s ability to sequester carbon,” blamed for climate change.
Using a successful Vermont “Fuels for Schools” program as a model, DOER would then study the economic viability of developing a wood-pellet plant and a program to help schools and other town buildings convert from their oil- and propane-burning furnaces to wood pellets from a new factory that could be developed under a number of different ownership models and conceivably supply businesses and homes as well.
The state’s pelletization study could probably be completed within a couple of years, Rizzo said, and could provide for “community scale economic development potential.”
Increasing the economic viability for landowners to keep the land forested and using practices that also enhance water quality, watershed and habitat protection was an overall theme of many praising the new federal-state-regional partnership Thursday.
“Foresters keep telling us there’s a lot of low-grade wood, and that there’s a market for that,” said Sloan, speaking before the announcement at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield. “Vermont has had a very active program, and on average it’s saved 48 to 50 percent of schools’ heating costs. That could be significant help to school budgets in West County.”
The 20-town region contains the most significant concentration of high-value forest for climate resilience in Massachusetts, as mapped by The Nature Conservancy.
Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said “This project is so exciting. It’s really heartening that a program of the federal government fits so well with what’s gone on here for decades.”
Jonathan Healy, a Charlemont tree farmer who also was a state agricultural commissioner and USDA Rural Development regional administrator, said the need for resource-based economic development in the region is real.
“If you go a mile or two on Route 91 and you watch the number of log trucks that go north every day, thousands of dollars worth of logs, thousands of jobs to Canada, China, and the state’s approach, from my perspective, has been a little bifurcated,” Healy told the new energy and environmental affairs secretary. As landowners and the largest tree farm that’s privately owned in Massachusetts, we love birds, we love wildlife conservation, we love water conservation, but the bottom line sometimes comes down to whether we can afford to keep going in terms of our operation and sell the land for other purposes. I’m hoping that you, and the legislators and others can take a look at this lost opportunity for real, good rural economic development and help us focus on how we can create more jobs out here. ... Hopefully this partnership will help in that area.”
You can reach Richie Davis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269
Copyright, 2015, The Recorder, Greenfield, MA