The Baker-Polito Administration announced $313,500 in grant funding to ten municipalities and two regional economic development organizations to support forest stewardship and conservation, trail improvements, and nature-based tourism in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Region.

The funding builds upon the Commonwealth’s Shared Stewardship Agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which established a framework for partnerships between local governments and stakeholders to advance the goals of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) to conserve forests and enhance regional economic development.

“The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership region has amazing natural resources and opportunities for outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism, and our Administration is pleased to work with the rural communities of the region to support economic development that conserves land and enhances resilience to climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Enhancing partnerships with local communities and organizations is one of the most effective approaches we have to support the stewardship of our unique natural resources here in the Commonwealth.”

“Through this funding and the hard work of so many, these communities will be able to advance important projects to bring jobs and revenue to the region while also helping to prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “To achieve our shared climate goals, we continue to foster strong partnerships between state agencies, municipalities, and dedicated stakeholders.”

The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is a grass-roots led program based on conserving forests and supporting sustainable management as a way to advance economic development in rural communities along the Vermont and New York borders. The program provides funding to assist towns in the Commonwealth’s most rural and forested region to plan for the care of forests in the face of climate change, prepare forest offset projects, and improve nature-based tourism by improving trail networks, infrastructure, and educational exhibits.

“The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership supports the important conservation and sensitive economic development of one of the most spectacular regions in the Commonwealth,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We are pleased to be able to fund these projects that will drive nature-based tourism and create local jobs, and are happy to work with these communities toward our shared mission of preserving the Commonwealth’s forests and critical habitats.”

The projects receiving grant funding will help to improve access to outdoor recreation in town and state forests, promote the use of local wood products, and enhance emergency response to remote locations. The projects also include the development of educational assets for residents and visitors about the importance of forests to reducing the impacts of climate change. The regional projects will develop a network of local experts to support budding forest-based businesses that will enhance tourism and creatively utilize the forest products from the region and help locate sites for riparian tree planting.

The following municipalities and organizations were awarded grant funding:

Grantee Project Description Grant Amount
Adams Assistance with completion of the RFR process to select a food vendor, education vendor, and outdoor recreation vendor for Greylock Glen. $20,000
Ashfield Construction of a 12 X 12 recycling center building using local wood and the creation of educational materials about the benefits of local wood. $16,500
Charlemont Design and installation of educational and regulatory signage related to rafting at various locations. $20,000
Hawley Acquisition of an ATV with tracks for 4-season rescue on state and other open space in town. $17,000
Heath Completion of Phase III of a regional trail network including the design and construction of trails connecting the Town Forest with the Catamount State Forest trails. $20,000
New Ashford Design and construction of a trail around Beaver Pond on the slopes of Mt Greylock. $20,000
North Adams Completion of design work and property research on a section of North Adam’s Adventure Trail. $20,000
Peru Completion of gravel road improvements to allow access to MassWildlife property in town. $20,000
Rowe Climate forest plan implementation on the Town Forest including installation of hemlock wooly adelgid plots to be monitored by an adjacent school, mapping of an old growth site and inoculation of ash trees. $20,000
Williamstown Planting of climate adapted trees on the Town Common (cost for the trees only – planting is being done with local matching funds). $20,000
LEVER, Inc. Completion of the Mohawk Entrepreneurial Challenge II to focus on forestry-based and wood using businesses start-ups. $60,000
New England Forestry Foundation Outreach to locate sites, design, and plant riparian trees at demonstration sites across the MTWP region; completion of 2 town forest plans and upgrades to 2 existing town forest plan to new climate forestry plans (matched with $60,000 in USFS funding).

Initiated in 2013, the MTWP is a collaboration among the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Franklin Land Trust, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, a Forest Service Liaison, and the MTWP Advisory Committee, which has representation from each of the 21 communities in the region as well as regional non-profits. Of the 21 communities eligible to join the partnership, 16 communities are now members.

In late 2018, state legislation authorizing the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership was signed into law. The 2019 signing of the Shared Stewardship Framework was an important step in the transition from a locally led vision to a long-term initiative and national model program to conserve and steward the forests, support rural economic development, and strengthen the vitality of these small communities.

In June 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration re-filed its plan to immediately put to use part of Commonwealth’s direct federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support key priorities including housing and homeownership, economic development and local downtowns, job training and workforce development, health care, and infrastructure. As part of the Administration’s proposal to jump-start the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and support residents hardest-hit by COVID-19, such as lower-wage workers and communities of color, Governor Baker would direct $900 million to key energy and environmental initiatives, including $100 million for parks, recreation, and open spaces. These funds would support investments in public lands, as well as lands specifically conserved for public access including parks, lakes, rivers, trails, beaches, fishing piers, boat ramps, and other waterways. Funding would be dedicated to projects that expand, enhance, and modernize the Commonwealth’s park facilities to steward and conserve natural resources, and to improve the resilience of natural and working lands, plants, and wildlife in the Commonwealth.