Area towns garner grants for forest conservation, nature-based tourism

ROWE — As part of a string of events celebrating Climate Week in Massachusetts, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides announced $225,000 in grants Monday to eight towns and a regional economic development organization in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region.

Speaking alongside local officials at Pelham Lake in Rowe, Theoharides said the funding will support forest stewardship and conservation, trail improvements and nature-based tourism.

“These grants highlight what make this partnership special,” Theoharides said. “It’s based on the amazing local energy of the residents and a love for the region’s rural lifestyle.”

Theoharides said conserving forests helps deal with climate change resiliency challenges. Whether it’s by reducing floodwaters, dealing with outbreaks of pests or disease, or by cooling off communities by providing shade, she said forests are a sort of “first line of defense” against the impacts of climate change.

Five Franklin County towns each received $20,000, as did Adams, North Adams and New Ashford in Berkshire County.

With its grant funding, Ashfield will build an access staircase to the boat launch at Ashfield Lake and conduct lake restoration projects. Conway will complete a forest carbon credit assessment, while Heath will build a trail connection between the 350-acre town forest and the 1,300-acre Catamount State Forest.

Additionally, Shelburne will complete a trail connection to the Mohawk-Mohican Trail, and Rowe will conduct a town forest education project, building kiosks with educational materials at entrances to its town forest.

Another $65,000 was given to Lever Inc., a regional economic development organization. The funding will create a support network for entrepreneurs in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region looking to launch or expand innovative businesses and to help new forest-based businesses launch.

Theoharides said Monday’s announcement marked four years since Gov. Charlie Baker signed Executive Order 569, which set a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“The communities within the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region offer incredible natural resources and opportunities for nature-based tourism,” Baker said in a press release. “Our administration is proud to invest in these rural communities in ways that drives economic development and makes them more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Initiated in 2013, the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership assists towns in furthering the care of forests in the face of climate change and improving nature-based tourism through trail networks, infrastructure and educational exhibits.

Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Vice Chair Rick Chandler, who also serves on the Ashfield Planning Board, explained that the partnership has allowed “21 towns and two different counties that don’t talk to each other normally, don’t have a whole lot in common politically and have a tremendous amount of geographic separation” to unite around conserving land and finding a way to make the area financially sustainable without changing the landscape. He said voluntary land restrictions played a part in this, but a large focus was on the forest economy and potential for ecotourism.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

Author: Going Green

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