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The partnership is focusing on 20 towns in North Berkshire and Franklin County.

BRPC Sees Opportunity in Forestland Program

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Thomas Matuszko of BRPC explained the program to a small group at the Adams Visitors Center on Monday night.

ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire County could tap into federal assistance to promote and maintain its forestry resources. 

A forestry conservation program being promoted by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission looks to use a new model that links communities, property owners, businesses, state agencies and federal agencies.

"The predominate reason we want to do this is to access some of the federal resources that may be associated through the U.S. Forest Service," Thomas Matuszko, assistant director of BRPC, said Monday night. "[Massachusetts] does not have a national forest currently, and we are missing out on a lot of those resources."

The first of three meetings this month on the possible forest conservation and economic development project was held at the Adams Visitors Center with only handful of people.

Matuszko explained that the program targets 20 communities in North Berkshire and Franklin County. The Franklin County Council of Governments is also part of the Community Partnership for Forest Conservation and Economic Development.

The program was introduced last fall in conjunction with National Forest discussions. Matuszko said planning was still in its initial stages and the groups were seeking more public comment before moving forward.

The areas were chosen because of the rich forestry resources they contain. The proposed land extends over 280,000 acres and the program can be utilized to create jobs in logging, as recreational tourist attractions, for local sustainable forest products and for research on new forest-related manufacturing technologies.

"We think that we can bring additional financial resources to this area, but also bring attention to this area as an important forestry area, attention to forestry practices, and attention to the resource based economy that can exist and that could be enhanced in this region," Matuszko said

The program relies on private land owners accepting money for a conservation restriction on their land. These restrictions could include things such as farming, logging, and the selling and development of the land.

Meetings, all from 6-8 p.m.

North Adams: Wednesday, March 12, at McCann School
Williamstown: Monday March 17, at Town Hall.
Cheshire: Monday, March 24, 6 to 8 at the Senior Center

"Conservation restriction is a deed restriction that is placed on a piece of property that restricts certain uses of that property," Matuszko said. "It allows the landowner to retain ownership of their land and also allows the property owner to conduct certain activities on that land as well."

Along with forestry, the program looks to push recreational-based tourism that could include a visitors center and campgrounds.

"We hope that we can create some forest-based tourism through this opportunity," Matuszko said. "People live in the Berkshires because they like the outdoor opportunities for hiking, skiing and snowmobiling."

Matuszko also discussed possibilities of tying in the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' emerging environmental science program.

He feels this forestry can help many of the struggling areas in northwestern Mass.

"This corner of Mass. has some fairly strong economic need, and Adams is suffering economically as well as a lot of the smaller towns," he said. "This northern tier has been recognized as needing an economic focus, and there isn’t going to be a lot of heavy industry so we feel we should capitalize on the assets we have which are forestry and recreation.”

The program remains in early development phases, and the community meetings are being held to discuss concerns about the project as well as suggestions. The project relies heavily on community involvement.

"We want to hear ideas and concerns that people have so we are looking for ideas about the overall vision of the program," Matuszko said. "We are looking at this as an opportunity, and I really hope we can approach it together."

Tags: BRPC,   forestland,   forestry,   Forestry Service,   Franklin CDC,   land conservation,   

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