FROM THE PROPOSED BILL
(b) The purposes of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership are:
(1) to support and expand sustainable forest management;
(2) to increase forest land conservation through conservation restrictions that encourage sustainable forestry;
(3) to support and increase natural resource based economic development and employment;
(4) to support and provide education and visitor information programs to increase public understanding of and appreciation for the ecological, recreational and economic benefits of forests;
(5) to support and promote the long term social and fiscal sustainability of the Participating Communities in the area; and
(6) to create a long term partnership between towns and cities, regional organizations, the executive office of energy and environmental affairs, and the United States Forest Service.
SOME CONSIDERATIONS OF THE PURPOSES IN THE BILL
1) Sustainable Forest Management: There is no agreed upon scientific definiton of "sustainable management". As written in the plan and the bill, there are no provisions for sustainable management, were there was such a thing, save the few acres of land that the Partnership would pay to place under conservation restrictions. The Partnership will otherwise have no authority over how forests are managed, making this purpose meanlingless.
2) Increase forest conservation: The plan is to use 10% of the money to put .7% of the areas forested land into conservation restrictions. This would be 2,100 acres, or an average of 100 acres in 21 Towns. Priority would be for land already under Chapter 61 and with a history of active forest management. Committee members have acknowledged that land conservation is not a Partnership priority. Looking at the simple facts, one would have to agree. Forest conservation programs already exist. The Partnership would have close to no effect on land conservation.
3) Support Natural Resource Based Economic Development: The main job creation program in the Plan is a wood pellet facilty. This would achieve at least one goal: a market for low grade wood for commercial harvesters and growers. The plant would provides 15-30 permanant jobs. There is no indication that an increased market for low grade wood leads to any significant number of jobs in the forest industry. There are few if any other plans afoot in the Partnership that would lead to much in the way of jobs. Save one. That would be tourism. A pellet plant and increased pellet burning will be uncontrollable, and lead to unknown forest resource degradation, certain public health hazards and lead to more GHG emissions and lower GHG sequestering by our forests. Tourism, dollar for dollar invested, provides many more jobs and is unlikely to lead to increases in lung cancer, heart disease, earlier onset of dementia, or athsma, like increased air pollution does. Increase tourism has and will occur without the Partnership, and the Partnership has little in the way of a plan to directly increase tourism.
4) Education and a Visitor's Center: Educators are not a represented interest in the plan or the bill. Will the public visit a visitor's center with local wooden bowls and flooring displayed be worth millions of dollars of public funds? Will the public want to visit a demostration forest where trees are being harvested "sustainably", for which there is no defintion, and that is already happening on 112,108 acres of our state land on a regular basis? Do we already have facilties that meet this need, like the Visitor's Center, staffed by volunteers, in Shelburne Falls? Money woud be better spent simply giving the money to the towns.
5) Increase social and fiscal sustainablity: The plan is to give $20,000 annually to each town for Partnership related expenses like emergency services or helping to pay for wood boilers in the schools. That's about all for this goal of the Partnership.
6) Long term Partnership with state agencies and the federal government: This will be ensured, because with no input from the towns, these agencies are Partnership members with voting power, and at least two are required as part of a five member executive committee. Other voting members ensconced without towns' input are two forest industry groups who sole interest in the bottom line of the forest industry. There are no provisions for voting these outside or special interests off of the partnership board or the executive committee. Who do we want making decisions for our towns?