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Woodlands Partnership Drafting Plans to Guide Its Future
By Brian Rhodes, iBerkshires Staff
04:14AM / Wednesday, January 19, 2022
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is working on a 2022 revision of its organizational plan, with a goal of having it drafted and finalized in March's meeting.

"We've had a few working group sessions focused on key sections and how they might need to change," said Lisa Hayden, administrative agent for the partnership and outreach manager for the New England Forestry Foundation. "We're now in the process of reaching out to the [committee] chairs to ask for their input and specific feedback looking back at the original plan chapters and how they think they might need to change."

The 21-community partnership's executive committee discussed the revision and the timeline for completion at their Tuesday meeting. The enabling legislation for the body requires that the previous plan, which is from 2015, be updated.

Committee Chair Hank Art said this new plan should guide the board for the years to come. He said the board has the ability to update it on a yearly basis if necessary.

"We do want to have a plan that is aspirational in terms of accomplishing certain goals within the next decade since this is a plan that is supposed to have a longevity of 10 years but be subject to annual updates," he said. "So the idea is, in June, to have a working plan that will provide guidance to both the partnership as well as the public and serve as an instrument which involves state interests, US Forest Service interests, the public interests, and again can be modified on an annual basis should we so choose to do so."

Art said completing the organizational plan will help the board strategize and obtain funding from the state and other sources. He said it needs to be the primary focus until they complete it.

"Revisions to the Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership plan are the highest priority that we have," he said. "There's a tendency to go off in all sorts of different directions. I think this is one we really need to focus on because there is a deadline of five months away and we want to be completed with this to the best of our abilities."

Board member Whit Sanford said the budget needs to be one of the board's top priorities, too, explaining that there is no clear path for adequately funding programming currently. Having a clear budget, she said, would help the board determine how to structure the organizational plan.

"I'm worried about our budget, our annual budget. We have really no money to do any programming, except by all of the volunteers and working with Lisa [Hayden] and Sophie [Argetsinger]," she said. "One of the reasons I approached [state] Senator [Adam] Hinds about that was, precisely, that we have no money to do any programming. We have no money, necessarily, to hire somebody to redo the website, etc. And it would be nice if we could count on some direct funding from the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and EOEEA [Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs]."

Board member and Adams Selectman Joseph Nowak said obtaining a healthy working relationship with the U.S. Forest Service would help the board achieve significant funding. Art said he wants to see what he can do to make this happen.

"They can be the partner that can really get this program going," Nowak said. "I think they have the deeper pockets; there is a lot of money for these types of programs, I believe. We've got to hit pay dirt somehow and get somebody to hear us about the need to have them come aboard with us because that's what the partnership was supposed to be all about."

Board member Robert O'Connor said the board could try and find ways to get long-term funding rather than focusing on obtaining it on a year-to-year basis.

"Right now, we're kind of going year to year trying to get money," he said. "But there may be other ways to get money that is steady like that."

Also discussed at the meeting, Art let the board know about an ongoing summer wood waste study conducted in partnership with Willams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Art said he is overseeing the students' work for the time being.

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