The Conservation Commission discussed the need for a comprehensive natural resources management plan for the Musquash Conservation area.
Town Forester Charlie Moreno said much of the work has already been completed, and further studies would help update the management plan.
Content could include a comprehensive ecological assessment of the forest, wildlife, wetlands and soils; as well as public uses, management objectives and recommendations of the Commission, according to Moreno.
“We could map out all the wetlands and talk about the hydrology in there,” he said. “There’s a lot that can be brought into the ecological assessment, and it would serve as a good baseline for the future.”
Moreno also suggested an inventory of timber in the Musquash, detailing species composition.
“For this much land, we could make it really detailed, or make it a medium-sized plan,” he said.
The plan would reveal what the property may look like 25 to 35 years in the future, which would help the Commission with decision-making moving forward.
“To me this is like a shopping list and each has dollar value. If we’re going to pay for it, how will we use it?” Commissioner Mike Considine asked. “We don’t do anything with soils now.”
“This information about the forest and having an understanding of what it is today, and why, and where it’s naturally going adds background for all civic and cultural decisions we’ll be making,” Commissioner Mike Speltz said. “Having a good understanding of layouts of habitat will help pull together the interfacing species of concern. Basic mapping of wetlands, soils, and natural communities is an add-on, it’s not absolutely necessary to have that. This is something to fall back on so when our friends from (Eversource) come with proposals, we can answer the question of whether there will be impacts. Or if there’s policy about tree stands or bear baiting, we have this background to fall back on.
“It will help us justify the decisions we make,” Speltz said. “To me that’s the key use to this, to understand in detail what’s out there and how a proposed action would impact it.”
With the assessment of the land, the Commission should also include in the management plan a better definition of the objectives for the property, Moreno noted.
“You may see other opportunities or objectives that are more general, you may have a recreational use you’re going to devote part of the forest to,” he said. “The first part of the plan is determining what’s out there, the second part is what do you want to do with it, how should we get it done and what does it take to make it happen?”
Moreno said he could begin assessments in the Musquash in the fall, completing the work in the winter or spring of next year.
The Commission asked Moreno to come back with an estimate of costs for the work and the number of hours it will take to complete.
Moreno said he would return with multiple proposals detailing the labor and cost for a comprehensive plan and a streamlined plan.