Falmouth council adopts scaled-back forest management plan

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council Monday adopted a pilot forest management plan before deciding whether to expand the plan to all eight town forests.

The council’s decision to concentrate management for now on the 275-acre Hadlock Community Forest was a compromise from the original plan, which proposed implementing the project on all town forests this winter. As work progresses, councilors hope the pilot will provide a more concrete cost projection for management as well as more definitive ways to manage invasive plant species that threaten at least six of the forest properties.

As recommended by the Conservation Commission’s Open Space Plan Implementation subcommittee, management is designed to improve the forest’s ability to grow timber while encouraging a wide variety of wildlife; guarding and improving the watershed value, and offering recreational use to residents. According to Falmouth Open Space Ombudsman Bob Shafto, the plan will improve the overall condition of the forest, which he said is in “rather poor condition.”

An added benefit to the town would be potential for some revenue from timber harvesting designed to remove poor quality, diseased, damaged trees and to thin out overstocked and overcrowded trees. In the committee’s recommendations for the Hadlock property, about a quarter of the stand, equivalent to between 300 and 400 cords of wood, should be removed. The harvesting will begin mid-December and continue for two months.

But during the public hearing, several people expressed their concern about whether the plan is the appropriate approach to forest management.

Daniel Hildreth, of Thornhurst Road, asked the council to “step back” and have a forest ecologist evaluate the forests and make recommendations that would give greater consideration to the ecological conservation of the properties. He added the plan should include better provisions to protect steep slopes, wetlands and vernal pools.

And Sarah Boudreau, of Gray Road, whose property abuts Hadlock Forest, said in addition to protecting the vernal pools, she and her husband are concerned about potential problems that could arise from disturbing the area and access.

Tax rate

In other business, Town Manager Nathan Poore announced the fiscal 2010 tax rate has been set at $12.35 per $1,000 of valuation, the same as last year.

With the real estate slump, Assessor Anne Gregory said many residents have asked her if Falmouth would be going through a revaluation. She said she’s keeping a close eye on the figures and the town is at 94 percent of market value – not enough to warrant a revaluation.

Gregory said the average sale price of single-family homes decreased by $63,000 between June 2006 and June 2008, to $430,000. But the average rebounded this year to $456,000 in June, an increase of $26,000 in the last 12 months.

“I thought that was great news,” Gregory said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.