Mohawk Trail Woodlands, Forest Service Team Up on Conservation
iBerkshires.com reports a shared stewardship agreement signed Thursday will bring U.S. Forest Service expertise to the state while keeping hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in state and private hands.
The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership encompasses 361,941 acres of state and private land across 21 communities in the northwestern corner of the state. About 28 percent of that land is permanently protected. The partnership will enhance conservation and forest research and provide technical support for businesses that depend on the region's natural resources such as tourism and forestry products.
"I am from this region, it is a part of the state that is near and dear to my heart," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at signing held at Berkshire East Mountain Resort.
Theoharides said the state is losing about 65 acres of forestland a day to development — housing, parking lots, and commercial establishments — and it's not coming back.
The woodland partnership has been a discussion for more than a decade, taking shape about six or seven years ago through the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments planning process, with support from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Franklin Land Trust. The formal partnership was authorized by law last year.
Massachusetts is the 11th state to sign a shared agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the first that does not have a National Forest. Vicki Christiansen, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, stressed that the Forest Service was partnering by invitation and that the goals and management of the forestland would follow Massachusetts' vision. The legislation creating the partnership prohibits National Forest designation.
The framework was developed over numerous public meetings held over the past six years.