The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is preparing to send to municipalities a final draft of the 2022 revision of its organizational plan that will help guide the partnership in its goals and priorities for the next decade.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the last six weeks or so, really digging into the previous plan from 2015,” said Lisa Hayden, administrative agent for the partnership and outreach manager for the New England Forestry Foundation. “The regional planning agencies — Berkshire Regional Planning (Commission) and (Franklin Regional Council of Governments) — really did the bulk of the work on the original plan and did a great job in pulling together baseline statistics, really talking about the land cover in the partnership, about the people and the communities.”
The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, which formed in 2013, is a grassroots program focused on conserving forests and supporting sustainable management with relation to economic development in rural communities. According to the organization’s website, the partnership is a collaboration between FRCOG, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Franklin Land Trust, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, a U.S. Forest Service liaison and an advisory committee. There are 17 member towns in the partnership, including the Franklin County towns of Ashfield, Charlemont, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Monroe, Rowe and Shelburne.
What the partnership has done, Hayden said at a meeting last week, is update piece by piece the information that was already organized in the 2015 plan, including rechecking citations and updating census data.
“We’re really in a good shape in terms of that baseline information we needed,” Hayden said, crediting her assistant Sophie Argetsinger for compiling much of it.
Hayden explained to advisory committee members that the first four chapters of the plan focus on the partnership’s key priorities, including forest conservation, natural resource economic development — which covers forestry, recreation and jobs — and municipal/financial sustainability.
The last three chapters, meanwhile, focus on the partnership between the region, state and U.S. Forest Service.
“I think we’ve made good progress,” Hayden said. “I’m not personally totally satisfied with the plan at this point. … I think most of the ingredients are there, but I still feel like there’s a little more polishing to reflect the good work that all the standing committees have started to do over the past year … as we talk about where funding will come from.”
While there’s still a little more work to do refining the plan, Hayden said she feels the partnership is “in good shape to begin sharing the revision with the municipalities and getting public feedback.”
“We’re looking forward to participation by the municipal representatives to the board in taking the draft to the public,” said board of directors Chair Henry “Hank” Art. “At this point, it has been a document generated primarily by internal revisions and we do need public feedback.”
Doug McNally, a board member representing Windsor, suggested the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership reach out to the coordinators of towns’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) plans, aimed at addressing local effects of climate change.
“The two are so tightly knit that it’s impossible to not see this plan as something that is a regional plan that addresses the local MVP plans are doing,” McNally said.
Hayden said while the goal is to review the document for a 10-year update, the plan itself should be considered a living document and will be subject to annual review.
She noted that work has started on a draft budget for supporting the plan’s goals and priorities. In the meantime, however, the goal is to begin reaching out to towns to hopefully appear before selectboards in April and May.
“It would be helpful to have (priorities) one, two, three — the most important types of (grants) we want to go after — and really set out a timeline over when we want to do that over the next year or two,” she said. “There’s more to come, but we’re making progress.”
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne