Forest Legacy: Protection on a Landscape Scale
The Nashua River Watershed Association and its partners utilize the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program to protect thousands of acres of forested land in our watershed. The focus of the Forest Legacy program is to protect forests from conversion to non-forest uses. Undeveloped forests slow the flow of water across the land allowing it to be filtered and purified before reaching water supplies. These forested lands prevent contaminants from reaching our rivers, streams, and wetlands; they provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities; and they help to sustain the local working forest economy. Our forests are among the best in the country for providing clean drinking water, and lie within a short distance of major metropolitan areas.
The Quabbin Reservoir to Wachusett Mountain (Q2W) project, in which NRWA is a partner, is currently ranked by President as the second most important forest protection project in the United States. This places the project in excellent position to be funded, but that funding is dependent on passage of a federal 2013 budget that provides adequate monies to the Forest Legacy program. The Q2W project application seeks $5,045,000 to protect 3,275 acres in the towns of Barre, Hubbardston, Petersham, Phillipston, Princeton, and Westminster. Sixty-eight projects from across the nation submitted for funding in the 2013 federal budget, were cut to a list of 20 potential projects, which were then ranked for funding. This complex project to protect multiple properties involves 23 landowners, town boards, and a multitude of organizations including NRWA, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Water Supply Protection, East Quabbin Land Trust, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, North County Land Trust, and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, acting as lead partner.
The Southern Monadnock Plateau Forest Legacy project was presented for funding in three phases. Phase I of the project requested and received $2.6 million and protected 1,162 acres in Ashburnham, Ashby, Fitchburg, and Westminster. The work to protect the final parcel in this phase was completed in October 2010. Approximately 2,000 acres in Ashburnham, Ashby, Fitchburg, and New Ipswich, NH will be protected by Phase II, which requested and received $3.3 million. The final application, Phase III, asked for $5 million to protect 2,233 acres in Ashburnham, Ashby, Gardner, Westminster, Winchendon, and Mason, NH. Although the project received a relatively high ranking for federal funding, it appears that there will be insufficient funds in the 2012 Forest Legacy budget to fund this phase. The three phases of this project were collaboratively developed and executed by NRWA, North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership (as lead partner), the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, North County Land Trust, Ashby Land Trust, Ashburnham Conservation Trust, and officials from the involved towns. View project map.
Each of these Forest Legacy applications pieced together small individual priority parcels across town and state lines into large corridors of protected working forests-- what our Land Programs Director refers to as “quilting a corridor.” The Forest Legacy program funds 75% of a project, so each application had to demonstrate a minimum 25% local match. The applications then underwent a competitive review process at both the state and federal levels, with only the top ranked projects receiving funding. Once federal funding is received, local partners proceed with the protection of each individual parcel through such vehicles as Conservation Restrictions or fee-simple transfer of ownership.
Our Forest Legacy builds on our previous U.S. EPA funded "Protecting Today's Water for Tomorrow" project, and our Source Water Stewardship Project.