Ashby Conservation Commission Annual Report

The duties and responsibilities of a Conservation Commission are spelled out in the Conservation Commission Act (HB chapter 18.9). Under this Act a municipal Conservation Commission is the official agency specifically charged with the protection of a community’s natural resources. Some of the first powers granted to Commissions in 1957 were the planning, acquiring and managing of open space and encouraging and monitoring conservation and agricultural preservation restrictions.

In 1972, Conservation Commissions were given the responsibility for administering the Wetlands Protection Act (Mass General Law Chapt. 131 Paragraph 40). The Wetlands Protection Act is described in HB Chapter 12 and the text printed in HB 18.34. You can read these for yourself at: http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/gl-131-toc.htm

Wetlands are an important resource to Ashby. They protect, filter and provide the high quality of drinking water in our wells. They support fish in our streams and ponds. They provide the habitat and food sources for the birds and animals that make Ashby a unique place to live. And, they keep large tracts of land open and undeveloped so that our children and grandchildren might also experience the quality of life that we enjoy in Ashby.

In a continuing effort to protect the wetlands and administer the Wetlands Protection Act, the Commission has accomplished a number of things over the course of the last year that you may or may not be aware of:

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  2. The Conservation Commission built a short wetlands education trail ending in two small boardwalks into the sphagnum moss swamp at the back of the property. Since the trail building day in July, the beavers also had a dam building day (or days). The boardwalks now appear as though floating in a pond rather than positioned over a sphagnum moss swamp.
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  4. Assisted Landowners and prospective buyers in identifying existing wetlands on their property that are protected by the Wetlands Protection Act.
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  2. Assisted builders in planning and completing their projects while protecting Ashby Wetland resources.
  • Orders of Conditions are recorded on the deeds of these properties. During the year only 5 requests were made for similar Conditions to be removed from deeds because the projects were completed according to plan. The Commission would like to remind property owners that Orders of Condition are valid for only 3 years. After that time, they may be extended, if a request is made in writing. Or, if the project is complete, the commission will issue a Certificate of Compliance to allow the landowner to have the Order removed from their deed.
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    2. The Commission has responded to calls for emergency actions from residents.
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    2. Have worked with the State Forester to review and manage more than 9 cutting plans and sites in and near wetlands in an effort to reduce or prevent damage to the wetlands.
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    4. The responsibility of the Commission, as spelled out in the Conservation Commission Act (HB 18.9) is to protect the community's natural resources. In that effort, the Commission has worked with the following Boards and Offices within the Town and out of Town on conservation issues over the past year:
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    2. The Conservation Commission applied for and received a Self-Help grant of $250,000 for the purchase of the old Mt. Watatic Ski Area. The funds were available to the town because of the work done last year by the Open Space Committee in writing an Open Space Plan. An Open Space Plan is a requirement for eligibility for State Self-Help Funding (HB 8.1, 8.2) for open space acquisition by the town.
    3. Negotiations are still underway for purchase of the property. An alternative property on Blood Hill is also being investigated and documented in case negotiations for the Watatic property become deadlocked.
    4. You may have noticed flyers for hikes through the town. Co-sponsored by the Ashby Conservation Commission, the Open Space Committee and the Ashby Land Trust, these hikes are designed to allow the citizens of Ashby to experience some of Ashby’s Open Spaces first hand. Landowners have graciously given permission for this group to hike across their lands. A high percentage of the lands are State owned or in the Chapter 61 programs. The landowners incur no liability during these hikes since there are no fees charged for participation.
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    6. The Commission has maintained a membership in the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions for over 13 years. The Commissioners have attended educational workshops sponsored by MACC in Wetlands Protections, Plant and Soil Identification, Wetland Replication Techniques, Open Space Protection, and a variety of workshops offered at the annual conference in Worcester.
    7. Commission members are also active in the Nashua River Watershed Conservation Commission Alliance, the Nashua River Watershed Land Trust Alliance, the Ashby Land Trust, and the Open Space Committee.
    8. There are currently four Conservation Commissioners. There is one opening for a new Commissioner under the current limit of five. This year, if there is enough interest in the town, we hope to expand to seven members. They serve for a 3-year term. The current members are:
  • There are currently five Associate Members of the Conservation Commission. They are: