NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership voted to ask state representatives to introduce a bill that would officially change the organization's name to the Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts.
The Executive Committee voted Thursday, March 23, to ask state Reps. John Barrett III and Natalie Blais along with state Sens. Paul Mark and Joanne Comerford to file the draft bill.
"We can send it off to them and see if someone will step up to the plate," Chairman Henry Art said.
In October 2022, the full partnership board voted to change its name. To accomplish this, the board requested the state Legislature, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the USDA Forest Service to take necessary actions to make the new name the official, legal name of the Woodlands Partnership.
The group had reached out to state representatives to push the name change forward but things seem to have stagnated.
"I don't think that there has been a groundswell of having our legislative delegation embrace this and dash towards making the name change official," Art said.
The group wanted to change its own name for two reasons: to remove the name Mohawk as they felt it was offensive, and for accuracy. The Mohawk Trail only runs through five of the 21 communities in the partnership
"It is not an appropriate name, and it is a highway," Art said.
Art noted that there is a fear among lawmakers that the name change could cause the partnership to "disappear" impacting grant applications. He was specifically referring to how changing the name would impact the partnership's trust.
But member Robert O'Connor, referring to the draft bill, felt this was a nonissue.
He noted the draft had been reviewed by the EEA attorneys and it contains language that clarifies and protects the trust. He said, literally, the only thing the act would do would be to replace all references to the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership with the Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts.
"It was reviewed by their attorneys at EEA, and I am not sure how this would be endangering the program if we change the name," he said. "I think we are stating that we are the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership legally, and we would like to change our name. I don't think that endangers any grants."
In other business, the Executive Board was in favor of exploring expanding board membership to include an indigenous peoples' representative, but there was some discussion on the best way to approach the addition.
Art suggested that instead of seeking out individuals, the partnership works through an indigenous peoples organization, specifically the Ohketeau Cultural Center in Ashfield and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Stockbridge.
"Before taking this to the full board, I think we have to have an organization on board," he said. "I think we need to do a little more due diligence to make sure they would find this agreeable and are enthusiastic about it."
Member Kate Conlin felt the increased representation was important and noted that she has had unofficial discussions with the Ohketeau Center, which is interested.
Some board members feared that only working through these organizations would be somewhat limiting.
"What if there is a representative from a tribe who is not part of these organizations? Do they still have a voice," board member Alain Peteroy said. "So maybe we want to dig a little deeper. I think this is a good way to do this, but I want to make sure it is the right way to do this."
Art agreed and felt inviting representatives from the Ohketeau Center and the Stockbridge-Munsee to their next meeting was a good place to start.
Administrative Agent Lisa Hayden provided the board with details on the Congressionally Directed Spending of $540,000 "Action on Forest Climate Resilience" project
She said they had requested $1.11 million of which a portion was included in the omnibus bill that had passed in December.
She said of the list of proposed uses, Action on Forest Climate Resilience was chosen. She said she has to now "repackage" and submit their plan in order to get a program up and running. She said they have three years to spend the money.
There was a sense among a few board members that some funds should be put toward private land conservation.
"That doesn't seem to be happening, but that is what we are all about," Keith Ross said
Hayden said private land conservation was on their list but was not what the state had selected for funding.
The board agreed that private land conservation was an important part of their mission and felt it was important to continue to advocate for it.
Before closing, Hayden said Savoy shared an interest in joining the partnership. She said she planned to send along article information they can include on their upcoming town meeting warrant.
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BAAMS Celebrates Three Years With Benefit Concert
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
Founder Richard Boulger is a North Adams native.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshires' Academy for Advanced Musical Studies (BAAMS) marked three years with a concert featuring the academy's faculty.
Hundreds attend the benefit concert that was held Friday, May 26, at the Adams Theater.
"We at BAAMS are truly grateful and inspired as we celebrate tonight, at the opening night of the Adams Theatre our Third Year Anniversary Celebration of being able to continue to work with young musicians throughout Berkshire County," said founder and Creative Director Richard Boulger.
The nonprofit came into existence in 2019 when Boulger, a professional jazz trumpet player and North Adams native, brought a lineup of world-class jazz musicians to teach in the academy.
Voters at town meeting on Wednesday swiftly passed $5.1 million in spending for the next fiscal year with no discussion.
But other articles, including a proposal to open the town's capped landfill to a solar operator, prompted debate and amendments from the floor. click for more