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Ashby selectmen back bid for forest protection grant

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ASHBY — Forest covers 70 percent of Ashby, but as land values rise and development pressures continue, that percentage may shrink.

To preserve Ashby’s forests, the Board of Selectmen signed a letter of support for the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership’s application for a Forest Legacy Grant.

The partnership is working with the Ashby Land Trust, Nashua River Watershed Association, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Ashburham Conservation Trust, The North County Land Trust, and the Ashburnham and Ashby conservation commissions.

Together, the goal is to protect nearly 2,000 acres of working forestland in Ashburnham and Ashby, which can be broken up into two major corridors.

One corridor will link and expand the Fitchburg water supply lands in Ashby and Ashburnham to the Jones Hill ridge in north Ashby, then into New Ipswich, N.H.

The second corridor will link Bush Hill, a previously-completed Forest Legacy project, with Ashburnham State Forest and additional lands that are already funded.

The project is actually the second phase of a focused effort to create a viable network of permanently protected forest.

Ashburnham had completed phase one after receiving $2.5 million in grant money for fiscal year 2007.

The goal is to eventually link 15,000 acres of protected land held by the state and local governments and land trusts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

All of the project land will be maintained with forest management plans and allow public access for recreational activities including hiking and nature study. A large section of the land will also be available for fishing.

The selectmen agreed there was a need, “to preserve these important resource areas for future generations.”

If the grant is approved, its expected the money will not be available for a few years due to high demand.

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