The Ashby Land Trust has been focused on three initiatives since our last Annual Meeting: land conservation, organizational development, and monitoring. Thank you to the subcommittee members and others who have worked on and contributed to these important efforts.
In 2011, the Land Trust worked closely with the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) and the Ashby Conservation Commission towards conservation of three properties in Ashby as part of the Forest Legacy project known as the Southern Monadnock Plateau (SMP), Phase II. Land conserved through the Forest Legacy program remains private property. Under the program, owners sell development rights to their property at a negotiated and agreed upon price.
The properties in Phase II are all in the northern part of town in an area with several other conservation properties. Two of the existing conservation properties were protected in a previous Forest Legacy project, one in conjunction with the New England Forestry Foundation, and one is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game. When the current project completes, an additional 265 (+/-) acres will be conserved in Ashby using Forest Legacy funding.
Forest Legacy projects are quite complex and involve coordination between many different players. We’d especially like to thank Al Futterman and Gary Howland from NRWA, and Cathy Kristofferson from the Ashby Conservation Commission for their extensive and valuable work on these projects.
In order to fund the due diligence costs for land conservation through the Forest Legacy program, the Land Trust applied for and received a no-interest loan of $25,000 from the Fields Pond Foundation. These due diligence costs are fully reimbursable under the program, but state and federal bureaucracy is such that the land trust was challenged to have enough cash on hand to pay them. Through the generosity of Fields Pond Foundation we were able to meet our financial obligations. The loan will be paid back as the Commonwealth of Mass. reimburses us for these costs. Fields Pond was one of the foundations that donated money for the purchase of Mount Watatic. We appreciate their support of the Land Trust and look forward a continued relationship with them.
In the area of organizational development, the Accreditation Subcommittee developed a “Roadmap for Excellence” which will lead to our application for Accreditation by 2014. In 2011 the Roadmap was approved by our funding source, the Open Space Conservancy, and we received the remainder of our $15,000 acceleration grant. The Roadmap details the steps we need to take to strengthen and develop all aspects of the Land Trust, from policies to programs, in accordance with the Standards and Practices laid down by the Land Trust Alliance, our national organization.
As part of this process the Monitoring Committee has been undergoing a review of the properties on which the Land Trust holds Conservation Restrictions. Each of these properties requires a baseline report and yearly recorded monitoring. The committee is working with a consultant to review all the documentation required under the new standards, as well as to bring our records into compliance with these standards. The Land Trust is responsible for four properties, the Wiita Conservation Land (Blood Hill), the South Road Fields, the Arnold property, and the Morrison property.
One of our founding Board members, Treasurer Christopher Nash, is retiring this year. We are sorry to see him go, and appreciate his 13 years of service to the Land Trust. His work as Treasurer was dependable and accurate, and his perspective always thoughtful.
Thank you Chris, from the entire Board.