State Awards Grants to Support Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership / iBerkshires.com


ROWE, Mass. — The Baker-Polito Administration announced $225,000 in grant funding to eight municipalities and a regional economic development organization to support forest stewardship and conservation, trail improvements, and nature-based tourism in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region.  


 


The funding builds upon the Commonwealth’s Shared Stewardship Agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which established a framework for partnerships between local governments and stakeholders to advance the goals of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) to conserve forests and enhance regional economic development.


 


The grants and report were announced as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s celebration of Climate Week in the Commonwealth.


 


“The communities within the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region offer incredible natural resources and opportunities for nature-based tourism,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “Our Administration is proud to invest in these rural communities in ways that drives economic development and makes them more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”


 


“To achieve our shared climate goals, it is essential that we embrace opportunities for partnerships between our state agencies and our municipalities, and we are proud to provide this funding to support the conservation of our forests and the development of rural economies,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said. “Through this funding and the dedication of a strong network of local volunteers, these communities will be able to make important upgrades to trail design and infrastructure while also taking meaningful steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change.”


 


The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is a grassroots-led program based on conserving forests and supporting their sustainable management in order to advance economic development in rural communities along the Vermont and New York border. The program provides funding to assist towns in the Commonwealth’s rural and forested region to plan for the care of forests in the face of climate change, prepare forest offset projects, and improve nature-based tourism by improving trail networks, infrastructure, and educational exhibits.


 


 The projects will help to improve access to outdoor recreation in town and state forests and sell “carbon credits” on town owned and private forest lands. The projects also include the development of educational assets for residents and visitors about the importance of forests in reducing the impacts of climate change.  The regional projects will develop a network of local experts to support budding forest-based businesses that will enhance tourism and creatively utilize the forest products from the region.


 


“The conservation of the Commonwealth’s forests is critical to meet our ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “These projects will leverage this incredible network of forests and trails to drive nature-based tourism and create local jobs, and we are proud to work with these communities toward our shared mission of preserving the Commonwealth’s forests and critical habitats for future generations.”


 


The following municipalities and regional planning committees were awarded grant funding: 


 












Municipality


 


Project Name


Project Description


Award


Adams


 


Forests and Climate Education


The project will design kiosks for trail heads at the Greylock Glen Conservation Area and will also prepare preliminary designs for the Forest Center that is envisioned for the Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership.


$20,000


Ashfield


 


Ashfield Lake Restoration and Boat Access


The project will complete the design and construction of access stairs on the shore of the lake where non-motorized boats are launched and will complete the restoration of this heavily eroded area with stabilization and plantings.


$20,000


Conway


 


Forest Carbon Credit Assessment


The project will complete an assessment of town forests for the sale of carbon credits including installation of permanent monitoring plots and assessment of forestry practices.


$20,000


Heath


 


Trail Connection between Town and State Forests


The project will acquire an 11 acre parcel for conservation and passive recreation and build a trail that will connect the 350 acre Town Forest with the 1,300 Catamount State Forest.


$20,000


Lever Inc.


 


Mohawk Trail Entrepreneurial Challenge


The project will create a support network for entrepreneurs within the MTWP region looking to launch or expand innovative businesses and help the most promising new forest based businesses to launch.


$65,000


New Ashford


 


Creating Trail Access to Mt. Greylock


The project will create and improve trails and parking along a town road to connect the Town to the State Reservation for the first time.


$20,000


North Adams


 


Creating and marketing a city-wide trail map


The project will inventory trails on all ownerships (state, NGO, private, city) and with input from residents and tourist business owners create and market a comprehensive trail map for the City to draw more tourists for hiking and walking.


$20,000


Rowe


 


Town Forest Education Project


The project will build and install 6 kiosks at entrances to the 1,200 acre Town Forest and develop and produce a trail map and forest educational material for posting in the kiosks.


$20,000


Shelburne


 


Town Center Trail Connection to the Mohawk-Mohican Trail


The project will complete borings and designs for a trail connection through a steep section along the Deerfield River to allow residents and tourists to hike from downtown to the long-distance Mohawk-Mohican Trail.  Construction can then occur via federal trail funding.


$20,000


 


Initiated in 2013, the MTWP is a collaboration among the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Franklin Land Trust, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, a Forest Service Liaison, and the MTWP Advisory Committee, which has representation from each of the 21 communities in the region as well as regional non-profits. Of the 21 communities eligible to join the partnership, 16 communities are now members, while five more will vote on whether to join the partnership in the coming months.


 


In late 2018, state legislation authorizing the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership was signed into law.  The Shared Stewardship Framework is an important step in the transition from a locally led vision to a long-term initiative and national model program to conserve and steward the forests, support rural economic development, and strengthen the vitality of these small communities.


 


“Western Mass is a hub for visitors throughout the country looking to enjoy all that our outdoors have to offer. Our forests sequester carbon and play a critical role in the fight against climate change. Key investments that maximize both in a sustainable manner are essential,” State Sen. Adam G. Hinds said. “The Commonwealth’s support of our region’s natural resources and rural communities provides opportunities otherwise impossible for many cities and towns.”