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Forest Legacy Program: Groton’s Precious Forests

by Connie Sartini
Groton Select Board voted to send a letter to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in support of the Forest Legacy Area Designation in central and southeastern Massachusetts.
State Request
     The town received a request from the DCR in October seeking help and support for their application to expand the Forest Legacy Areas to include Groton in the Massachusetts Forest Legacy Area.
     According to the DCR letter, “the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) was established in 1990 as a federal-state partnership to promote the long-term integrity and protection of privately-owned forest lands. Since its inception, the program has awarded millions of dollars each year to fund land conservation projects that support traditional forest uses, including economic development through forest wood products and forestry jobs, maintenance of public water supplies, recreational opportunities and critical wildlife habitat.
     "While the Commonwealth has large Forest Legacy Areas which are able to access the program’s funding, vital regions where forests are most threatened by conversion are not currently designated and cannot draw from the funding source.
     “Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is updating the Forest Legacy Program Assessment of Need and has completed its evaluation to identify privately-owned woodlands that are under the threat of fragmentation and conversion to non-forest uses. As a result of this assessment, we are proposing an expansion of the Forest Legacy Area to make grant funding available for the conservation of more Massachusetts’ important forests.
     “Forest Legacy designation in your town would allow access to another funding source for potential forest conservation projects that involve willing, private landowners. There is no regulatory structure imposed on the area and no landowner is obligated to participate.”
Select Board Response
     The letter of response and support from the Select Board included detail about the already protected forested lands in Groton.
     The Select Board letter advised that more than 50 percent of the Town of Groton’s 32 square miles are forested. There are approximately 713 acres of private and institutionally-owned forested land that have been protected with Conservation Restrictions. Additionally, approximately 608 acres in Groton are classified as Chapter 61 Forest Lands and are under a minimum 10-year management plan certified by the State Forester. On the public side, the town has protected numerous acres of (largely forested) open space. These properties are primarily managed by the Groton Conservation Commission (2009 acres); the Town Forest Committee (516 acres) and the Groton Water Department, including the West Groton Water District (385 acres).
     In closing, the Select Board wrote, “We believe the Forest Legacy Program is consistent with both the regional context of the Town of Groton as well as our goal to promote agricultural opportunities. Furthermore, we believe the Forest Legacy Program could be an important tool is conserving the region’s forest resources while maintaining private ownership, and we strongly support the expansion of Massachusetts’ Forest Legacy Areas.”
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