Snowmobiles and Land Partnerships in Massachusetts (Larry Tucker)
Published on Sunday, January 26, 2014 in Guest Columns, Legislative Affairs, News & Updates
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The Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts has worked to create an awareness of SAM among public and private land agencies. Over the last couple of years SAM has established relationships with land trusts, has partnered with a land trust to purchase land with a trail easement and has instituted a program to put $5 of every SAM trail pass into the Trail Preservation Fund. These seemingly simple actions are actually big steps towards making SAM a recognized equal partner in the stewardship of our lands.

But, even as SAM’s efforts to solidify our trail system continue, it is worth noting that since the last issue of “On The Trail With SAM,” countless land use changes continue to be reported, all with potential effects on our trail system. Massachusetts does not have any national forests but recently land planners in Franklin County began discussions with its 20 towns about a program to allow landowners the option of obtaining National Forest designation for their property through a conservation restriction.

In Montague, a local farmer has offered to sell his 122-acre farm to a local land trust with a 99-year lease with an agricultural preservation restriction. In Amherst an anonymous donor has bequeathed several hundred thousand dollars to a local land trust with the intention that it be used in conjunction with state grants to continue purchasing and protecting the remaining 6,000 acres of the 16,000 acre Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom ranges. Over 7,000 acres of this land is currently owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The DCR also recently awarded over $350,000 to four Hampshire County towns for land preservation. Northampton will use $64,000 to purchase a 26-acre parcel of land in Conway adjacent to the watershed in Whately. Hatfield will purchase a 20-acre parcel to add to the Terry Blunt Watershed Conservation area and South Hadley will receive $7,500 to acquire a conservation restriction on land near the Stony Brook Conservation area. The bottom line is we should be aware that the DCR and the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts are continuing to purchase and protect land at the rate of approximately 60-65 acres per day.

I could continue, but this accelerating transformation of the rules, regulations and restrictions on the landscape of this state is something that SAM has prioritized and continues to develop a strategy for. The partnership between the DCR, the largest landowner in the state with over 450,000 acres, and SAM has grown. SAM is recognized for having the largest group of active volunteers on state lands and a champion of responsible recreation. Taking into consideration SAM’s continued interest in land preservation, a growing partnership with the DCR fits perfectly with SAM’s strategy to strengthen our trail system. And it would be my wish to someday read the headline, “SAM-DCR partnership leads to creation of a linear park.” The story being how the partnership completes a snowmobile corridor from Beartown State Forest northward to Mt. Greylock State Reservation and eastward to Wendell State Forest.

I hope to see you all soon and please keep in touch with your local land trust, conservation commission and regional planning agency for their help with this process. And remember, snowmobilers are environmentalists.

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