Massachusetts signs agreement with USDA Forest Service to conserve local forests


CHARLEMONT, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts is teaming up with a federal forestry service to help conserve the woodlands in Franklin and Berkshire counties.

The shared stewardship frameworks means the USDA Forest Service will work directly with the state to conserve local forests and support forest-based economic development.

The signing of the agreement is a first-of-its-kind in the country.

“Massachusetts is the first state that signed the shared stewardship agreement. And it doesn’t have a National Forest but we’re here to bring our incredible forest research,” USDA Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen told 22News.

Meaning the USDA Forest Service will now help advance the goals of the Mohawk Tail Woodlands Partnership.

But not everyone at the event supported the agreement. There’s concern about the federal government’s role in local forestry.

“Lately what the US Forest Service has been doing is not the management of our forests, public forests. But the destruction of it and selling it off for timber so we’re here to say we don’t want US Forest Service here,” said Don Ogden of Florence.

But the USDA insists they’re using sustainable foresting management, and taking tourism into consideration as well.

“If we don’t do anything to forests they’re going to be unhealthy,” Christiansen explained. “They’re going to get an outbreak of insects or disease of they’re not going to have the mature wildlife habitat.”

Speakers at the signing spoke about focusing on forest-based economic development and helping to manage private forest land. The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership is made of 14 communities. Seven more will vote on joining in the coming months.

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