By Sally Loomis
In early September, Hilltown Land Trust’s TerraCorps member Tessa joined me at a presentation about town open space and recreation plans in the region. Tessa noted the dissonance among the plans and asked me “do town Open Space Committees ever talk to each other?” Having worked with several Open Space Committees (OSCs) for years, including leading the committee in my hometown of Williamsburg, I responded “rarely, but that would be a great idea!”
Fortuitously, just a few days later, HLT was asked to be involved in a statewide effort to provide training, networking opportunities, and support to town OSCs. I eagerly agreed that we should be part of this much-needed work.
Town OSCs typically lack the time and resources to coordinate on a wider scale and have ambiguous and often daunting roles to play in local land conservation. These groups are clearly tasked with writing town Open Space and Recreation plans and they are often called upon to support individual projects, but there are few training or networking opportunities for OSCs and many struggle to attract members. OSCs can be an important and trusted, local source of conservation information, can help their neighbors make informed choices about their land, and are often aware of who is making decisions about the future of their land. This role compliments the work of land trusts and state conservation agencies who can then provide the necessary expertise to help interested landowners conserve their land.
Over the course of the next few months, HLT will offer training, support, and networking opportunities to OSCs in western Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties. We will organize three regional workshops this winter to introduce OSC members and other town conservation advocates to the land conservation professionals in their area, discuss important ways town conservation leaders can support land conservation in their community, and offer networking opportunities for community conservation leaders. Three other land trusts will be doing similar work in other parts of the state.
This work will help HLT cultivate a network of land conservation allies who can assist HLT and other organizations in pursuing high quality conservation efforts. Participants will learn about the land conservation process, what roles they can plan in protecting and managing conservation land, and what resources are available to small towns. A network of informed conservation advocates will amplify the work of land conservation organizations such as HLT.
This effort is funded by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Working Forests Initiative with support from UMass Extension Service and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. The ultimate goal is to encourage family forest owners to pursue conservation-based options for their land.
I am excited to have Tessa serving with us this year, as she has the interest, motivation, and skills to help build his network!
If you would like to learn more about this program and related upcoming events, visit our event page or contact Tessa (firstname.lastname@example.org / (413) 628-4485, ext 4). The next networking event is happening Feb. 26th in Shelburne Falls.