Kathleen Mason's Posts (3)

The Thames River Basin Partnership and the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative may span different geographic regions, but they have similar ideas and missions. The Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative focuses on the Salmon Falls Watershed in Southeastern Maine and Northeastern New Hampshire. The Thames River Basin Partnership operates in the Thames River Watershed that spans Southern Worcester county, Massachusetts, and Eastern Connecticut. Both groups approach natural resource protection through an emphasis on ground and surface water planning and management. Each hosts an annual event to engage and educate municipal officials, citizens, local businesses, lake associations, watershed groups, and other conservation and water supply organizations within their regional conservation partnership. By bringing together the partners in this manner, these events foster a sense of community and commitment within their RCPs.

This year the Thames River Basin Partnership put on their 18th annual Floating Workshop with the theme of river continuity. Groton, CT-based education and research nonprofit Project Oceanology donated the use of their Envirolab research vessel, allowing participants to hear from CT DEEP fisheries biologists on fragmented stream habitat, USGS on flood plain mapping, and Project O staff on the impact of upstream land practices, all while floating down the Thames River. To boost participation from municipal staff and leaders, TRBP offered scholarships to help defray the cost of attendance. The floating workshops have a different theme each year and have covered topics such as the changing coastline of Connecticut, the water quality initiative in Little River, and smart growth/smart conservation to name a few.

Similarly, the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative’s annual Success Safari highlights the projects and initiatives of their partners. This year’s Success Safari explored the towns of Somersworth and Milton, New Hampshire, and included stops where participants could learn about invasive species, conservation efforts, and the important role of the river as a drinking source. Participants toured the Somersworth Water Treatment Plant, learned about the invasive European Nyad in the Milton Three Ponds area, and finished at the town protected forest on Casey Road in Milton to discuss protection of the property and cyanobacteria monitoring in Rochester’s reservoirs.

Both events highlight the ongoing projects of their regional conservation partners, while providing interactive education for participants on the importance of these projects to resource conservation and specifically water quality in their respective regions. Aside from updates and education, Salmon Falls believes their Safari serves to engage and reaffirm among members of the regional conservation partnership, “a commitment to work together on issues impacting the watershed.” This engagement serves as a simple reminder that together, as dedicated members of a regional conservation partnership, they can achieve conservation on a larger scale and at a faster pace. The partners learn and have fun together during these events, a winning combination that helps to keep the collaborative energy strong!

 

Participants of the 2018 Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative Success Safari listening to Chief Operator, Greg Kirchofer, during a tour of the Somersworth Water Treatment Plant.

 

 

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Cold Hollow to Canada (CHC) declared it to be a vulnerable time for forests in their Fall 2018 newsletter, citing an intergenerational shift in land ownership and negative impacts associated with climate change. In their programming, initiatives, and research, Cold Hollow to Canada is gearing up to address these ownership and climate changes in creative ways.

Using their deep ties to the local community, Cold Hollow to Canada partners are engaging private landowners through citizen science, educational programs, and forest management and stewardship. Charlie Hancock, CHC co-founder and board member, believes the community of seven towns in the Cold Hollow Mountains is deeply connected to the landscape and therefore must act as stewards of it, a reality that informs everything Cold Hollow to Canada does. A forester himself, Charlie is trusted and respected by the community and local foresters, enabling them to successfully work collaboratively to address the challenges facing their region.

In the next five years, one third of family forest owners in the Northeast will be making decisions about the future use and ownership of their land (Catanzaro et al.). As these properties change hands—often sold or passed down to a family member--the future of the land and the benefits they provide are uncertain. Anticipating this shift in land ownership, CHC hosts Woodlots Programs to engage local landowners and help inform these critical decisions of ownership and management. Participants gather with peers to discuss their wishes and hopes for their land in the future, while learning about a variety of estate planning tools and conservation options including easements, wills, and trusts to meet their goals. Getting groups of neighbors together to learn and collaborate on the management of their forested properties fosters strong community relationships and creates a more significant cumulative impact than outreach to individual landowners alone. Last year, Cold Hollow to Canada received grant money from the US Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program to expand the Woodlots Program by funding management best practices, and breaking down financial barriers to doing good stewardship.

Keeping forest ownership affordable by increasing the economic benefits and viability of sustainable forestry is another strategy to combat forest loss and fragmentation and keep forests as forests. CHC sees voluntary forest carbon markets as a way of incentivizing sustainable forest management that serves to mitigate the effects of climate change. CHC participated in a feasibility study, in partnership with the University of Vermont and the Vermont Land Trust, considering the viability of carbon aggregation as a way to open a new stream of income to forest landowners. The study found that voluntary carbon market participation is viable for landowners in Vermont, particularly through aggregation of parcels, and where projects demonstrate substantial co-benefits valued by communities and the state.

At the same time, the increasingly visible impacts of climate change on Vermont forests are prompting CHC to address this threat through other avenues. Researchers, foresters, and community members alike are noticing an increase in disturbance events, and northward shifts in species range and composition. Cold Hollow to Canada incorporates climate-informed forest management into their work with Woodlots Program members. Specifically, this means guiding private landowners to implement forest adaptation strategies like creating structural complexity in their woods, maintaining and protecting “climate refugia,” or diverse landscape areas where species are predicted to persist, and anticipating and even facilitating transitions in species composition. CHC also implements two citizen science programs aimed at documenting and understanding shifts in wildlife activity. WildPaths engages community members by monitoring road crossings, which provides data to contribute to maintenance of important connections between wildlife habitats. The Keeping Track Monitoring Program trains participants to identify and monitor resident wildlife populations on a seasonal basis.

One of Charlie Hancock’s favorite quotes, “attention is the beginning of devotion,” describes the ideas and actions of Cold Hollow to Canada. A shared sense of connection and stewardship to the forests strengthens their community’s dedication to conservation and research. In the face of change, CHC is tracking patterns, updating management, continuing research, and engaging landowners in a vision of a healthy and intact forested landscape that supports a strong and sustainable local economy.

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The High Peaks Initiative (HPI) seeks to protect important natural resources, secure public access, and support healthy human and natural communities in the most mountainous region of Maine. With the help of Academics for Land Protection in New England (ALPINE), HPI has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with nearby Colby College to enhance these goals. A guiding principle of the High Peaks Initiative is that the work of the partnership should be driven by community values. HPI had anecdotal information on the impact of conservation and recreation in the area, but wanted some data to support it. Conducting a study to quantify the value of impacts from conservation and recreation could inform a longer-term collaborative effort to market the region.

With these research goals in mind, the partnership connected with Philip Nyhus, Colby College Environmental Studies Program Director, to assess how High Peaks and Colby could work together. With funding from the Colby Buck Environment and Climate Change Lab, the College was able to supply HPI with summer interns, GIS support, expertise in natural resource economics, and all other necessary resources. Colby economics professor Michael Donahue, who had completed similar studies in the Belgrade Lakes region, and David Vail, an economics professor at Bowdoin College assisted with study design. Colby students Lily Wong and Sally Burke spent the summer journeying around the High Peaks region, surveying people at trailheads, restaurants, beaches, bicycle paths, in towns, and elsewhere to engage a diverse pool of visitors. The survey asked questions about how the visitors heard about the region, where they were coming from, and what sort of activities they planned to engage in. Business surveys were sent to over 500 local businesses during the fall to obtain even more economic profiles. Both the surveys to visitors, and those to businesses sought to determine how nature and ecotourism contribute to the local economy.

Through this collaboration, HPI was able to provide the Colby students a valuable internship experience where they contributed to cutting-edge economic research pertaining to local conservation and recreation assets over the course of a summer exploring the High Peaks region. The High Peaks Initiative will soon have a completed economic study on conservation and recreation impact in the region, a project the RCP would likely not been able to take on without the resources and connections of Colby College. This project is an example of the kinds of mutually beneficial relationships between regional conservation partnerships and academic institutions that ALPINE is seeking to foster across New England in an effort to build new capacity for conservation.

High Peaks Initiative summer interns, Lily Wong and Sally Burke from Colby College class of 2021, at Poplar Stream Falls Hut of the Maine Huts and Trails, one of the stops on the journey through the High Peaks region to collect surveys on the economic impacts of conservation and recreation.

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