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Mahoosuc Land Trust proposes conservation easement for Mt. Jasper

December 30, 2009
BERLIN – The city council authorized the drafting of a letter of support for Mahoosuc Land Trust (MLT) and Clean Power Development's (CPD) pursuit of a conservation easement for Mt. Jasper at their meeting on Dec. 21.

"What we have on the table is a fantastic opportunity for some community-based development, economic development, and conservation, using land that the town already owns," Mahoosuc Initiative Coordinator Sally Manikian said.

Conservation easements are given to assure that land continues to exist in some way that the owners are particularly appreciate of, said Steve White, President of MLT.

"You can give away development rights," Mr. White used as an example, "and then it's the land trust's job to ensure that those rights are never violated."

"As part of the wetlands mitigation process for the Department of Environmental Services, approximately $40,000 can be dedicated to the purchase of conservation easements in Berlin," said Ms. Manikian's project description.

MLT plans to develop a set of sustainable walking trails for Mt. Jasper, complimented by an interpretive display.

Jim Mitchell, Technical Director for MLT, explained that it would be their responsibility to monitor the property to ensure that the conditions of the deed are being met. This is usually done, Mr. Mitchell said, by volunteers walking through the property and taking photographs.

CPD Project Manager Bill Gabler said the Department of Environmental Services (DES) said they would look at the application very favorably, and what they are looking for now is some sign showing that the city endorses the project.

Mayor David Bertrand expressed concern about the effect a conservation easement might have on any snowmobile or ATV trails on the land. Ms. Manikian said that though there is a snowmobile trail on the property, it is at the bottom of the hill and bypasses the recreation area so it should not be affected. Also, such issues could be negotiated between the city and the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

"I don't think that we will be able to consider every nook and cranny and self-made corridor that somebody construes as a snowmobile trail," Mayor Bertrand said. "When it comes down to it, I think that my intent would be to make sure that the state trails and city trails remain open."

MLT has similar plans for Mt. Forist, but Ms. Manikian admits, the parcel is more complicated due to its private owners. Mt. Jasper's success could bolster support for a similar process with Mt. Forist, which includes private landowners.

Ms. Manikian and company plan to return on Jan. 5 to further discuss the Mt. Jasper project.

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