Friday, March 8, 2002
Feds make vague offer to manage Greenough Land
The first item on the conservation commission's February 28 agenda was billed as "a conceptual discussion" of cooperative management of the town's Greenough Conservation Land, and conceptual was what it was. The conversation raised intriguing possibilities, but it was often difficult to discern exactly what either party was looking for, and above all, what they might be willing to do to get there.
Linking Greenough to Great Meadows to Kennelly Farm
Rick Jorgenson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had toured Greenough with conservation administrator Sylvia Willard and commissioners Jo Rita Jordan and Tom Brownrigg that afternoon. The one thing that was clear from his introductory remarks that evening was the Service's interest in including the property in a regional habitat protection plan that would link it to the 37,000 acres of the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge and the Kennelly Farm in Billerica. The latter is slated for protection using town, state, federal and foundation monies. Noting that Kennelly, Greenough and an intervening triangle of private property offer high quality habitat, he said the Service is seeking a cooperative approach to wildlife management.
Jorgenson suggested several options, the least likely of which was outright purchase. A second, and apparently the one favored by Fish and Wildlife, was donation under a formula for payment in lieu of taxes. A third vaguely defined possibility was a cooperative agreement for the Service to manage the tract for habitat purposes only. A fourth was described as " a restrictive fee in return for a conservation restriction," the terms of which could be negotiated between the town and the Service. Looking for something a little more concrete, commissioner Peter Burn asked, "Where would the specifics come from?" Reluctant to be pinned down, Jorgenson replied, "Its conceptual at this point."
Who would repair the dam?
Determined to elicit a few basics, Brownrigg asked, "how would you feel about restoring the dam, or the house or the barn?" Again the reply evaded a concrete answer. Jorgenson indicated that the project might be less expensive with the help of the Service saying, "We have the equipment and the expertise but that is not saying we'd do it."
Commissioner Chris Kavalauskas, though pleased that the Feds were interested in habitat preservation, was also worried that they might just let the dam go. Repeating that Fish and Wildlife would be happy to collaborate on the dam decision, Jorgenson offered, "Dams are almost as much fun as diesels and other big equipment." Then he said the Service "might be willing to deal with the pond from either point of view, but notably for protection of waterfowl." He stressed that Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton is a believer in federal, state and local cooperation and implied that an agreement on Greenough might be helpful in the ongoing drive to protect Kennelly.
Preserving public access
Speaking from the audience, planning board and trails committee member Louise Hara brought up what she termed "a big issue," namely public access to land managed by the Service. She explained that when the O'Rourke property was bought by the Feds, Carlisle residents lost its use for horses and trail bikes. Also, since a major trail passes by the Greenough barn, that too might be closed to the public if the Service were to use the barn for storage. "Would Fish and Wildlife ever consider negotiating things like this?" she asked. Jorgenson replied that it would depend on whether the agreement were for management only or "in fee," concluding that rules could be "softened" if they affected a primary interest of the town.
No concrete offer
Still hopeful of nailing down a concrete offer, Brownrigg declared he would like to see a written proposal, so the commission could study it, and would be particularly interested in what restrictions might be involved with each option. Jorgenson countered with a request that a subcommittee be formed to enter into discussions in which these issues could be clarified. Because the commission was facing a full agenda, follow-up action was postponed.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito