Grant helps Falmouth to add to community forest

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FALMOUTH — A $140,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service will be used to help the town purchase 36 acres for the North Falmouth Community Forest.

The forest, which is accessed off Blackstrap Road, is already one of the largest contiguous parcels of open space in town, according to Bob Shafto, the town’s open space ombudsmen.

The addition of the new acreage, he said, is also key to the Greening of Falmouth plan, which calls for the town to retain its rural character and preserve “high-value natural areas” whenever possible.

Shafto said the grant from the forest service would pay half the cost of purchasing the land. The town would contribute the other portion through its open space fund.

“This acquisition provides excellent access to the North Falmouth Community Forest,” said Ted Asherman, chairman of Falmouth’s Land Management and Acquisition Committee.”

“As a substantial parcel within the Highland Lake watershed, this acquisition will enable (the forest’s) contribution to the lake’s water quality to continue forever,” he added. “Further, it fits very well with the town’s Comprehensive Plan by removing development potential in a region where town services are more costly to provide.”

Shafto said this is the second grant the town has received from the U.S. Forest Service in support of the North Falmouth Community Forest.

Two years ago the town also used a forest service grant to add 97 acres to the property. “Piece by piece we’ve been assembling the forest over the last 10 years,” he said.

With the new acreage, Shafto said the North Falmouth Community Forest would encompass more than 400 acres. The new land, which was originally part of the Babbidge Farm, also provides direct access to the adjacent Laurel Preserve in Windham, he said.

Under the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, the goal is to “establish community forests that will provide economic and environmental benefits, as well as education, stewardship and recreation opportunities,” the service said in a press release.

“The program gives thousands of Americans better access to the great outdoors while fostering the next generation of American conservationists,” said Vicki Christiansen, the forest service’s deputy chief of State and Private Forestry.

In addition, she said community forests across the country will “become important economic, recreational and educational cornerstones of their communities.”

Shafto said the North Falmouth Community Forest is “managed for multiple uses, including water quality protection and preservation of wildlife habitat,” adding, “Our forest management practices are designed to improve the overall health and diversity” of the forest.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

A grant from the U.S. Forest Service is allowing the town to add 36 acres to the North Falmouth Community Forest.