The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 2, 2005


Land Stewardship Committee takes shape

The ad hoc Land Stewardship Planning Committee (the Planning Committee) established by the Conservation Commission delivered its final draft report on August 18. The Committee had been asked to propose a system of management or "stewardship" for Carlisle's 29 parcels of conservation land, totaling 1,068 acres.

As town holdings have increased over the years, the Commissioners have become aware that these valuable community resources require more oversight and monitoring than they can consistently devote to the task, given the scope of their mandatory duties under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act (WPA). Therefore they asked the ad hoc group to explore the possibility of creating a permanent subcommittee to manage and protect the town's conservation lands, under the general direction of the Commission.

In previous reports the Planning Committee recommended formation of a Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) of five to seven members with rotating terms "to organize and coordinate land maintenance and supervision" and "to build a large corps of citizen 'stewards.'" The latter could undertake complementary responsibility and ownership of neighborhood conservation parcels.

Five specific "Core Tasks" for the LSC had been presented previously, including a baseline assessment of each parcel, development of a management plan for each, regular monitoring and reporting on compliance with said plan, maintenance in Town Hall of active files on each, and annual development of a Land Stewardship Action Plan (LSAP) containing a prioritized list of all needed maintenance and desired improvements.

The final Planning Committee report as presented last month by Chair Warren Lyman covered the mechanisms for funding and a completed 17-page management plan for the Fox Hill Land on Bedford Road. The document also urged that the subcommittee work in close cooperation with the Trails Committee and other related town and private organizations having similar interests.

Of particular note was the new section that offered "guidance for establishment of funding mechanisms for implementation of the LSAP." The text also stressed that "all budgetary requests and grant applications should be presented to, and approved by ConsCom before proceeding." Lyman urged the Commission to act soon on formation of the LSC, so that everything can be in place before the next budgetary cycle that begins in January. The Planning Committee feels it should be possible to add operating and "modest" capital costs to the ConsCom budget.

Since one of the Town's Community Preservation Act goals is for "acquisition, creation, preservation, rehabilitation or restoration of open space," and half of their funds come from the state, the report advises that funding for one-time capital expenses that meet its requirements should be pursued. Like all other capital requests that exceed $10,000, LSC funding would be sought through the Long Term Capital Requirements Committee (Long-Term Caps). The LSC would be required to submit their own proposals to the Long-Term Caps. If feasibility studies prove necessary, they too would follow the same procedures outlined above.

The report also suggests that the LSC might consider the possibility of forming a "Friends of the LSC" to help raise money for special projects. Official Town bodies, and hence their subcommittees, are forbidden from participating in fund-raising events, although donations can be given to the Conservation Commission Gift Fund. The Committee could, of course, pursue government grants or funding from private groups such as the Carlisle Conservation Foundation..

The sample Fox Hill management plan is precise and detailed. Lyman recommended that it be carefully evaluated following ConsCom approval of the overall recommendations. The Commission should then hold a public hearing to review and comment on the format.

Moving rapidly, the Commission scheduled a meeting to discuss and finalize the over-all report at 7:45 p.m. on September 8. Chair Tom Schultz congratulated the Planning Committee, saying, "You have done a great job, not only for us, but for the whole town," a sentiment that was echoed by the other commissioners. In addition to Lyman the Planning Committee included Steve Hinton, Lynn Knight, Paul Kress, Marc Lamere, Greg Peterson, Roy Watson and Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito