‘Demonstration forest’ in Pelham is second in state

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Following a team effort that began when a group of landowners from Pelham went to the Kestrel Land Trust looking to permanently conserve 160 acres, the Buffam Brook Community Forest in Pelham has become the second “demonstration forest” in the state.
 
Funds from the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Program, bargain-rate sales of the land, private fundraising, and the Community Preservation Act secured the land, which is now owned by the town. The conservation restriction is held in perpetuity by Kestrel Land Trust.
 
Management of the land will continue, but with the additional twist of using climate change resiliency techniques to showcase sustainable forestry. Kestrel Community Conservation Manager Kat Deely said a focus will be placed on structural and species diversity.
 
“People naturally like a park-like setting, but that is unstable because there is no ‘under-canopy’ [and it] would not recover from a natural event,” Deely said. “A messy forest is a healthy forest.”
 
At 160 acres, the community forest can show Massachusetts landowners what management techniques could look like on public – as well as private – land.
 
“It was a unique project that the landowners brought it to our attention that they wanted the land to be conserved,” said Deely. “It had been under management for years and was very productive.”
 
Conservation Commission Chair Dana MacDonald said, “I can’t stress enough the importance of these landowners.”
 
The project was well received across a range of interests in town, in part because the land would remain open to the public and available for recreation, MacDonald said. After going through a series of meetings with boards and commissions that have a stake in how the project could affect the town, it was brought before a special town meeting to approve the $100,000 in CPA funding, MacDonald said.
 
“It was all levels of conservation interests coming together on behalf of a small town that doesn’t have a lot of resources,” MacDonald said. “I deeply appreciated the commitment to this project.”
 
Kestrel is currently working, along with foresters and experts at UMass, on writing a forest stewardship plan, which will be available for public comment this spring.