Aug 312021
 

Braintree CC meeting of 25 Aug 2021

 

Attending: Gina Logan, Joan Richmond-Hall

 

Guest: David Paginelli, Orange County Foresters

 

July minutes not approved as we lacked a quorum.

 

The purpose of the meeting was to pick David Paginelli’s brain about the potential of a 2000-acre piece of The Conservation Fund’s 7000-acre parcel of land being purchased as a town forest for Braintree.

  • David knows about this parcel.
  • A selectboard member in Granville (a retired forester) is against public ownership of forest and had blocked some progress on this project, particularly in Granville.
  • Other towns in Vermont have purchased town forests with federal funds: Fairlee; _______; and ________. David knows those folks.
  • In a number of cases it’s tough to arrange for funding in time for the sale. The Trust for Public Lands has solved this problem in a number of cases by purchasing and holding parcels until legacy or other funding can be arranged. In most (?) of these cases towns didn’t pay for the forest parcels and they and were given a seed fund for operations and maintenance.
  • The Vermont Land Trust has helped towns do the same at little cost to the town.
  • The Alliance for Vermont Communities has done similar work in Strafford/Sharon: purchase and donate with a management fund.
  • David knows of both Federal and State funding that’s available today. Given intermediaries, towns commit to eventual ownership with a conservation easement.
  • Liabilities?
    • If there’s an active set of trails operated by a club, that club may have insurance.
    • In Vermont, landowners are generally held harmless unless there’s a public nuisance or users have paid for access.
  • Management?
    • Vermont provides towns with the services of a county forester to help with town forest management.
    • Because of Orange County’s high forest workload, our county is divided into two halves; and Braintree is in AJ Folensby’s district, though he and David often work together.
    • Logging roads can be used for recreation. Towns mow them every few years to keep them open.
    • Maintaining a trail system takes organization and effort. On 2000 acres we might create 10 miles of trails. While some logging roads may be used, they are generally steep and up and down. We may want to create trails along the contours. Good trails are built to prevent erosion, especially with the rains we’re getting in the past decade. Bike clubs are often willing to help with recreation. We might want to close the steepest roads to bike traffic.
    • Bradford has extensive trails and is managed for timber. They are managing shared use well. Loggers work at one of three trailheads so that some access is always open.
    • Communications and expectations need to be clear and well managed. Long-term planning is needed to think about phasing of trails and logging over a decade or two.
    • Some towns have a forest board and / or CC that report to the select board.
    • Management plans are developed with public input -> FB/CC implements the plan and reports to the SB.
    • Money: Initial funding might seed a management fund and some towns dedicate some or all timber revenue for maintenance. That can work if it’s well thought out: self-sustaining. David suggests dedicated fund for the forest. SB likely needs to sign off on timber sales (again) even when they’ve approved the management plan that includes such sales.
    • We could likely populate the CC or a forest board with folks from use groups so that they’d be talking regularly.
  • Worries are usually reduced tax base or drains on town resources. Worries haven’t been justified.
    • We’d lose the municipal tax but a town forest would have no effect on the school tax. In the case of Royalton / Strafford the cost of the new town forest has been maybe $1/person/year.
  • 2000 acres is really big and could be a significant economic draw for the Randolph area.
  • Town forests are considered unfragmented as long as no new wide roads are put in. Narrow fire roads aren’t considered fragmenting.

 

David is very positive and hopeful about this project and is happy to meet with us again and will be in touch if he hears more about this project. We’ve promised to keep him up to date on our end.

 

Next meeting: 15 or 22 September at 7 pm by Zoom or in the Town offices.

 

/s/ Joan Richmond-Hall