Newsletter of the Rotary Club of Needham for April 6th, 2021
Speaker: Michael Downey, Service Forester, Program Coordinator for the Forest Stewardship Program, Massachusetts Bureau of Forest Fire Control and Forestry (photo below)
Michael talked to us about his role as a Service Forester coordinating the Forest Stewardship Program. It promotes the perpetuation, extension, and proper management of forest lands within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are three million acres of forest land in Massachusetts, 60% of the area of the state is forested, making our state the 11th most densely forested in the US. Almost 2/3rds of this land is privately held by 293,000 landowners with the remaining third in government control.
When people of European ancestry started to settle in the state in the 1630s, there were 4.5mm forested acres in Massachusetts. That dwindled to a low point of 1.5mm acres as pastureland for sheepherding peaked with the Civil War in the 1860s. Forested acres have recovered to 3.0mm, but more recently, our state is losing 13 acres per day to development. That poses a threat to clean water, animal habitat and places to recreate. Here's where the Service Forestry programs come in: they provide technical expertise and services to the forest landowners and municipalities, so they can make the most of their woodlots while preserving clean water and wildlife habitat.
A landowner's use of the Forest Stewardship program starts with an assessment of their land by a licensed consulting forester. Then, taking into account the owner's intentions for the land, a 10 year Forest Management Plan is developed. The plan will help connect the owner to additional technical resources and funding to keep the land in forestry and out of development. "Chapter 61" offers property tax reductions in exchange for withholding land from development or maintaining land as open space. Every year, the Forest Stewardship program helps about 200 landowners or towns to develop their first stewardship plan, serving- on average- 25,000 acres per year. Michael noted that with the aging of the "baby boomers", there's a generational shift of ownership happening. His team hopes to educate the owners in stewardship and support their intent to conserve the environment.
Next meeting: Tuesday April 13th, 2021 at noon.
Next Speaker: Tuesday April 20th, 2021 at noon. Benny Nachman, "Teaching Kids about Fiscal Responsibility"