Friday, May 3, 2002
Stewardship program protects forests and habitats
Following up on recommendations made by Professor Brian Donahue of Brandeis University in a March appearance here, the conservation commission invited Region II state forester Guy LaChance to talk with them about forest management at their April 25 meeting. Donahue, a founder of Thoreau Country Forest, a coalition of public and private landowners and conservation organizations advocating coordinated protection and management of forests and open spaces in the suburban setting, obviously inspired his local audience.
As conservators of over 1000 acres of municipal land, largely forested, the commission has become increasingly concerned about its obligation to manage this resource more actively. They are also eager to support individual and non-profit organizations like the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), which holds another 120 acres to undertake similar activities.
Forest Stewardship Program
After outlining the provisions of the tax shelters available under Chapters 61 and 61A, which offer tax breaks to landowners who agree to keep forest lands protected but also impose some legal obligations, LaChance concentrated on an explanation of the state's Forest Stewardship Program. This option offers a broader, more flexible perspective, but can incorporate 61 and 61A provisions.
The Stewardship approach, which has no acreage requirements or legal obligations, takes an all-encompassing look at the land in question, taking into account not only forestry protection but other considerations such as water resources, habitat, endangered species, soil characteristics, vista, trails and even items of historical interest. LaChance said the heart of the stewardship approach is development of an obligatory 10-year plan tailored to the owner's objectives. Emphasis can be on multi-use, habitat enrichment, biodiversity, development of forest products, aesthetics, etc., but the key consideration is "maintaining the forest's ability to sustain itself."
The plan is drawn up under the guidance of a certified forester who, LaChance explained, maps the entire site according to the types of stands, indicating the best places to grow particular species, where thinning is recommended, or recognizing where harvesting should take place to avoid wasting a mature resource that, left uncut, would soon lose its value. Such prudent cutting would release the land for healthy regeneration.
'Call Before You Cut'
LaChance warned that anyone planning to cut 25,000 board feet, 50 cords or more of wood or to cut near a wetland must file a plan under the state's Call Before You Cut requirement. This assures that proper procedures are followed, such as leaving a filter strip to protect the canopy near a water resource.
Commissioner Jon Beakley inquired, "Do you ever manage a forest explicitly to maintain its health?" LaChance's reply was another question, "What do you consider a healthy forest?" The answer, "Good question. Maybe habitat protection." La Chance found that a plausible answer, but pointed out that it wouldn't always lead to the healthiest forest in terms of tree growth or forest products. He then explained that for him health means taking care of insects, diseases or even acid rain, or that it might preclude maintaining oak monoculture in an area prone to gypsy moth infestation.
Both the commissioners and CCF president Art Milliken were pleasantly surprised to learn that a certified forester could probably be engaged to produce a qualifying plan for 100 acres of forest at a cost of $1,000 to $1,500. However, he advised that, when the time came, they would be wise to get three bids to assure getting a forester that really cared about the owner and his forest.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito