Wildlife habitat improvement grants available


Sporting clubs with an interest in wildlife habitat management may want to apply for grant funding from MassWildlife. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has provided $300,000 for a habitat management grant program that will fund private and municipal efforts to manage conservation lands which benefit native wildlife and related recreation. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program is managed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). In its second year, the program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

Eligible applicants include owners of private or municipal conserved lands. Conserved land is defined as property protected in fee or by a Conservation Restriction, land enrolled in Chapter 61,61A/B, or has a current Landowner Incentive Program covenant. Examples of habitat management practices include: Mowing, brush hogging, heavy chipping, tree clearing, contract grazing,  invasive species control, fencing for habitat protection, prescribed burning, woodland improvements, tree planting of species beneficial to wildlife, nest site structure, creation and installation, and more.

Applicants may apply to receive between $10,000 and $50,000 per grant towards their approved habitat management projects. State and federal lands are not eligible. For more information click onto  mass.gov/dfw/habitat-grant.  Applications must be postmarked by November 15,2016.

HVA improving riparian buffer

Eversource manages a transmission right-of-way in Hinsdale which crosses the Old Mill Trail and the East Branch of the Housatonic River, a state designated healthy cold water stream. The strip of land adjacent to the river under this transmission line will be the site of a restoration project to be coordinated by the HVA thanks to funding received from Eversource and the Central Berkshire Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Eversource’s maintenance of vegetation under transmission lines is designed to keep vegetation from growing into the overhead electrical lines. Where transmission lines cross a river, this can greatly reduce the amount of river shading which is important for keeping stream temperatures cool. Cool temperatures are especially critical for native brook trout, whose population in recent years has declined considerably.  The East Branch of the Housatonic River still has a healthy native brook trout population. When members of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited expressed concern to HVA about this stretch of river under the transmission line along the Old Mill Trail and its potential impact on the native brook trout habitat, HVA responded and drafted a restoration plan.

With permission from Eversource and the Hinsdale Conservation Commission and necessary funding, the process to create a much healthier riparian buffer has begun. This fall, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, barberry and multi-flora rose will be treated or removed.  Later on selected native plants will be planted with assistance from Wahconah High School students.

This improved riparian buffer will provide shade, better stabilization of the river bank and also intercept surface runoff thereby trapping any sediment and pollutants before they enter the river. The leaf litter from the vegetation naturally deposited into the stream will provide food for many of the aquatic invertebrates which in turn will provide food for trout and other fish.

In cooperation with the new landowners, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, HVA will ensure future trail management includes manual removal of any woody seedlings that could interfere with the transmission lines. Manual maintenance of this stretch of vegetation under the transmission line could eliminate any need for future herbicide applications between the Old Mill Trail and the river’s edge. Over time, the improved riparian buffer and elimination of invasive species will enhance the wildlife habitat in and along the river.  For more information about this restoration project, contact the HVA at 413-394-9796.

Unfortunate cancellation of Big MOE

The Massachusetts Outdoor Expo, (Big MOE), started out with a group of sportsmen and women who wanted to create an opportunity for kids to learn more about outdoor skills, wildlife and conservation.  They approached the Hamilton Rod and Gun Club in Sturbridge to host the Expo, due to its central location and facilities.  Shortly thereafter, members of the Outdoor Expo group approached FAWNS,   (Facts About Wildlife & Nature Society), a non-profit group founded in 1998 to promote the connection of people to the outdoors.  They were also interested in promoting educational experiences focusing on the outdoors and a partnership was formed with FAWNS being the organizing entity.

For 19 years the Big MOE continued to operate as a free family event. Its key function was to offer a first, safe, step into the outdoors guided by the certified instructors who oversaw the hands-on activity stations.  It provided its participants with the tools to learn about and connect with the many education programs, sporting clubs, and other community pathways to learning more about outdoor activities.  The event annually drew several thousand visitors and about 45 activity stations.

This year, with just a few days before the big event, they were unable to secure the necessary liability insurance to protect all involved. Even though it had a perfect, incident free record for the past 19 years, the insurance companies deemed the event a high risk. Consequently, the event, which was scheduled for last Sunday, had to be cancelled.  As one organizer said, “Sadly, this is now a reflection of where our society is heading unless we all make an effort to change this attitude”.

Fortunately, they were able to get the word out about the cancellation in time and only 30 cars had to be turned away.  People were disappointed but they weren’t angry.

FAWNS is determined to continue Big MOE next year.

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