Good news for environmentalists and conservationists

 

There are two good news stories to relate to you.   First, at a recent event at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced $480,568 in grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) for projects to protect and restore rivers, watersheds, and wildlife across the Commonwealth.

“The Environmental Trust has been investing in the waters of Massachusetts for over twenty-five years,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our coastal regions and rivers are just some of the natural resources that make Massachusetts such a great place to live and visit, and these grants will continue to improve these incredible resources.”

Since it was founded in 1988 as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, MET has awarded more than $20 million in grants to organizations statewide that provide a wide array of environmental services, from supporting water projects in communities to protecting coastal habitats. Funding for this program comes from the sale of the state’s three environmentally-themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale Tail, the Leaping Brook Trout and the Blackstone Valley Mill.

“The grants being awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration will help to open miles of rivers to fish, improve water quality, and provide new recreational opportunities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This funding has been made possible because over 40,000 drivers in Massachusetts chose to purchase one of the three environmental license plates, and I applaud our state’s residents for their continued commitment to the Commonwealth’s environmental well-being.”

The grants will help support twelve projects in Arlington, Barnstable, Belmont, Bourne, Boxford, Chilmark, Falmouth, Hanover, Milton, Pittsfield, Wareham, and Wellfleet.

“This award will help the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) implement a visionary partnership with local college students focused on protecting Berkshire County’s most valuable natural resources,” said State Senator Benjamin B. Downing.  “The Massachusetts Environmental Trust has funded such initiatives across the Commonwealth for decades, and I am pleased to see the Baker Administration continue to support these important environmental protection efforts.”

Congratulations to BEAT which has been awarded $35,682 to develop a program for training citizen scientists to survey stormwater outfalls during dry weather conditions. They will create a digital survey form for mobile phones that can be used in the field and take photos that will be geocoded and downloaded at the end of the survey.  A GIS layer will be created with attached photos and forms documenting the size, material and condition of the pipe, and note any problems associated with each outfall. When dry weather flows are found, trained personnel will sample the flows and the samples will be tested by a certified lab and by Berkshire Community College students for a new water quality course.

 

The second bit of good news is that the US Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to double the amount of land it conserves around the Connecticut River over the next several decades.

 

The proposal to acquire the land is part of the draft management plan for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.  The Conte Refuge was established to conserve, protect, and enhance native fish, wildlife, and plants, and the ecosystems they depend upon throughout the Connecticut River watershed.

The 7.2-million acre watershed represents the refuge’s legislated boundary, and covers portions of four states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The watershed provides important habitat for hundreds of breeding and migrating birds, numerous migratory fish, and several federally listed threatened and endangered plant and wildlife species. As of October 2013, the refuge consisted of 35,989 acres on 9 refuge divisions and 9 refuge units across the watershed.  The largest refuge divisions are the 26,605-acre Nulhegan Basin Division in Vermont and the 6,405-acre Pondicherry Division in New Hampshire.

The USFWS has put out four options for the future of the Conte Refuge.  The agency’s preferred pick would increase the amount of land bought for conservation from the current goal of 97,830 acres to 197,296 .  That would include parcels in Hadley, Northampton and Westfield.

 

You can download a copy of the full-text draft online at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Silvio_O_Conte/what_we_do/conservation.htmlAllow yourself some time for the summary alone is about 45 pages.

Two public meetings are scheduled in our area.  The first will be on September 14 at the Becket Town Hall and it will focus on the Westfield River.   Currently some 125 acres are in the refuge there and they would like to increase it to 6,520 acres.  The second meeting will be held on September 23 at the Chesterfield Council on Aging Community Center/Grange Building at 400 Main Road, Chesterfield.  It will focus on the Dead Branch area which currently has 97 acres in the refuge and the preferred plan is to increase it to 6,012 acres.Following the meetings, there will be a 90 day review and comment period.

Our late US Congressman Silvio O. Conte would have loved this news.  His dream was to see the Connecticut River cleaned, fishable, swimmable and with salmon restored in abundant numbers.  We know what happened to the salmon program but the rest is certainly good news. *****

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.

 

There will be a Basic Hunter Education Course taught at the Becket Town Hall,  557 Main Street,  on the following dates:  September 21and 23 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM and on Saturday, September 26 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.  To enroll, call (508)389-7830. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Basic Pistol Course on Mondays, September 14 and September 21 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course cost is $100.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807.

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