Ashby Land Trust March 17, 2007
We had a quiet year in 2006 with progress on a number of conservation and outreach projects. We did not, however, accomplish our goal of growing the Board of Directors and this remains our primary goal in 2007. The Ashby Land Trust’s long term well-being depends as much on bringing new members to the board as it does on good fiscal management. New board members will bring new ideas to the table and enable us to share knowledge and responsibilities to continue the projects that we have already started and to start new ones.
Early in 2006, we enjoyed a presentation by Randy Julius on Native American life and artifacts. Randy’s entertaining talk featured arrowheads and stone tools and techniques for making twine and rope from plants. Later in the year, the Land Trust held a fundraising dance at Maja Hall in Ashby, co-sponsored a hike on Mount Watatic with the Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust and one in Willard Brook State Forest with the Friends of Willard Brook. As hikes have been one of our most popular and effective ways of getting people out to see the natural resources of Ashby, we will continue to sponsor hikes in 2007.
In 2006, the Board approved policies for evaluating properties against a set of conservation priorities and set guidelines for accepting a conservation restriction. The conservation priorities were influenced by the Town of Ashby’s Open Space plan as well as by the shared priorities of the Land Trust Board of Directors. The guidelines for accepting a conservation restriction were drawn from the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices for land trusts nationwide as well as from our experience with conservation restrictions to date.
Our primary conservation projects in 2006 revolved around efforts by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to secure parcels in Ashby and Townsend that abut Willard Brook State Forest and Pearl Hill State Park. Both parcels were officially purchased over the summer with help from the Land Trust. We continue to play a role in the work to restore a large area on one of the parcels that was damaged during a logging operation. Throughout these projects, we have maintained a good working relationship with DCR and the Department continues to be interested in conservation opportunities in Ashby.
2007 is shaping up to be one of unique opportunity for the protection of open space. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently completed a major set of changes to the Chapter 61 laws that provide temporary protection of open and working landscapes with a goal of significantly increasing the number of landowners enrolled in the program statewide. The Chapter 61 program is an excellent way to get landowners involved with their land and conservation and often leads to more permanent protection. At the federal level, there are special tax incentives in place in 2007 for landowners who donate conservation restrictions on their property.
At a recent conference for state agencies and non-governmental organizations focused on conservation, there was renewed enthusiasm for land conservation. Among the many topics discussed were alternative energy projects and their impact on conservation and the rising economic impact of tourism and eco-tourism in central and western Massachusetts. Ashby is blessed with a great deal of “raw material” for agriculture, forestry, recreation and tourism and is still relatively unscathed by widespread development. However, this will only remain the case with careful attention to conservation and compatible development options. We expect that the Ashby Land Trust will continue to play an important role in this discussion.
Thank you to our loyal members and to the 2006 Board of Directors whose commitment and hard work keeps the Ashby Land Trust strong.