Ashby Land Trust April 4, 2009
The Ashby Land Trust enjoyed another productive year in 2008. Three subcommittees steadily worked on land conservation, monitoring, accreditation and organizational development. I’d like to start by thanking the subcommittee members and others who contributed to all these important efforts. I will focus my remarks on our progress in land conservation; reports from the other committees are on page 4 of this Annual Report.
The Land Trust is currently working on the on-going Forest Legacy grant applications administered by the US Forest Service. Each grant cycle takes several years to complete. You may recall that in 2007 we participated in an application for FY09 federal conservation funding titled “Southern Monadnock Plateau, Phase II”. That application seeks to conserve over 1,800 acres of primarily forested land in Ashby, Ashburnham, and New Ispwich by funding conservation restrictions valued at over $4,000,000. I am pleased to report that the Phase II application has been funded at the level of $2.2 million out of $3.3 million requested. The process of allocating funds to specific parcels included in the Phase II application is underway now. After that, we will begin working with the Phase II landowners to complete each conservation restriction purchase.
In 2008, we submitted a follow-on application for FY10 Forest Legacy funding titled “Southern Monadnock Plateau, Phase III”. The Phase III application seeks to conserve an additional 1,885 acres of land in Ashby, Fitchburg, Winchendon, and Mason.
This past fall, one of the Ashby parcels included in the Phase II application was moved into the already funded Phase I Forest Legacy project. The due diligence (title search, appraisal, etc.) required to close on the purchase of a conservation restriction on that parcel is nearing completion and will represent the first use of Forest Legacy funds to protect land in Ashby.
Another conservation project is also moving forward. The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has reached agreement with the City of Fitchburg to purchase conservation restrictions on Fitchburg water supply lands including parcels in Ashby. As part of that agreement, the City of Fitchburg must use a portion of the funds received from DFG for additional land conservation. Several Ashby Land Trust board members participated in public meetings and reached out to landowners in Ashby with parcels in the area of the water supply lands. In addition, both DFG and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) have focused continued on page 4 their conservation efforts on a number of habitat reserves across the state including one in the area of Ashburnham State Forest and Mount Watatic. There is also interest at the state level in a corridor of open space running from the Fitchburg water supply lands up to Mount Watatic along the western border of Ashby. There are no shortages of opportunity for land conservation in Ashby.
As we reported last year, pulling together large projects such as a Forest Legacy application is time consuming and can be expensive. We have continued to recoup costs in 2008 through a combination of membership dues, grants, and other donations. We have also incurred another round of due diligence costs with the Phase III Forest Legacy application. In 2009, we will continue our fundraising efforts in order to remain on a solid financial footing.
As always, I want to thank the Board of Directors and others for all their hard work on preserving the rural character of Ashby in 2008. I also want to thank our members and those who made contributions to support our work. We couldn’t do it without you.
During 2008, members of the monitoring committee attended a monitoring workshop, an introduction to GPS, and individualized instruction from New England Forestry Foundation.
The William & Vincent Arnold property on New Ipswich Road was monitored on November 20, 2008 in conjunction with Chris Pryor of the New England Forestry Foundation. There were no problems to report on this property.
The Morrison property on West State Road was monitored on November 30, 2008 in conjunction with Roberta Flashman and Cathy Kristofferson of the Ashby Conservation Commission. At the time of inspection, brush was observed on the southeast corner. The abutting neighbor is being notified of the infraction.
Monitoring committee; Sue Chapman, Amy Aubertin, Bob Leary
In late 2007, Board of Directors created an Accreditation Committee to examine the feasibility of the Ashby Land Trust applying for Accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance. We reviewed the benefits of Accreditation for the Ashby Land Trust. While agreeing that such a process could provide a form of confidence for local contributors, donors, and/ or partners, we felt our relative success and the size of projects we’ve completed to date provide us with much of this perceived area of benefit already. We chose to hold off on applying, recognizing that the process is in its infancy of implementation for the Land Trust community, with many kinks to be worked out. As we have watched the Land Trust Alliance deal with issues and changes to this process, we are pleased with our decision to hold off on application.
However, we made a commitment to preparing for the Accreditation process by having the committee meet to review the Standards and Practices for Accreditation. This review includes validating or implementing the Standards and Practices to ensure we are as effective and efficient an organization as is possible. In 2008, the committee met several times and provided monthly updates and recommendations to the Board of Directors. These recommendations have resulted in approval of several clear policy statements for the Ashby Land Trust, as well as process improvements. The committee will continue our efforts in 2009.
Accreditation Committee: Ken Brown, Jeanie Lindquist, and Amy Aubertin.