Jun 262014

Members of the Groton Conservation Commission met representatives of the Groton Conservation Trust, the Groton Trails Committee, and about a dozen neighbors of the Baddacook Conservation Area last Friday, June 20, to discuss concerns with the post-timbering condition of the parcel and ways to remediate and move forward with a management plan.

The 36-acre Baddacook property lies between Martin Pond’s Road and Baddacook Pond, generally north of Route 40 east of Groton center. It is owned by the Groton Conservation Commission, but the Groton Conservation Trust owns the Conservation Restriction on the land. The property includes two distinct areas. One is an old field with an old barn foundation, apple trees, lilacs, and other plantings. The other is a timbered area that winds around several wetlands, vernal pools, and a portion of Baddacook Pond. It is prime turtle breeding habitat, including for the state-listed Blandings Turtle. It is also home to the blue-spotted salamander. It was the second area to be logged as part of the Commission’s sustainable forestry plan.

Timbering near these sensitive areas can be done only in the winter. Last winter’s heavy snow may have hindered some of the log and debris removal operations. The rutted and slash-strewn trails that appeared after snow melt are not conducive for walking in an area used daily by neighbors.

“With the snow cover, these trails looked pristine after timbering,” Takashi Tada, Groton’s Conservation Administrator, told the group.

Darcy Donald, one of the neighbors who has taken a lead role in working with the Conservation Commission, pointed out piles of some logs left in the woods, a high berm between the field and a vernal pool, and silt near a stream crossing. The neighborhood group has been stewards of the land, removing piles of trash and mowing the trail leading into the area.

Olin Lathrop of the Groton Trails Committee said, “All these logs will rot and make interesting soils and places for creatures to live.”

He pointed to a tree that had grown out of a pile of mossy nurse logs left over from the last logging operation over twenty years ago. He was also optimistic that the Trails Committee could come up with a plan to improve and even extend the trails. Unwanted ATV traffic is more problematic, but signs posting the areas as prohibited to motorized vehicles will be posted.

Logging and agricultural use have created a problem with invasive plants that will get worse because the winter’s logging has opened the forest canopy and let in more sunlight. Debris left in the field from past uses and logging, both recent and 20+ years ago, will require cleanup of the field before the land can be converted to a mowed pasture or whatever other use it is put to in the future. The consensus from Bay State Forester Eric Radlof and people at the meeting was that agricultural uses are probably limited to pasturing, not growing crops.

“Invasives will readily move into the more open forest, so a more targeted approach will be needed,” Conservation Commissioner Susan Black, who is also a forester, said.

Radlof, who evaluated the Conservation Commission’s properties for possible logging in 2011, recommended last month that a flail mower be used to knock down invasives and native shrubs which are returning as the field succeeds to forest. Even with herbicides, it may take 2-3 years to get the field ready for a possible agricultural use, he said. Other ideas discussed are the possibility of grazing goats on the property, and the possibility of installing turtle gardens.

Conservation Commissioners hope to evaluate their first sustainable forestry efforts and find ways to better communicate the process before and during timbering. Money received from the timbering will be used to manage conservation properties.

The cutting down of trees to make healthier forests seems counterintuitive, but sustainable forestry is at the heart of a recent report released by the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), “New England Forests: The Path to Sustainability” www.newenglandforestry.org/images/forestry_report/Forestry_Vision_Final.pdf and an earlier study by the Harvest Forest, “Changes to the Land: Four Scenarios for the Future of the Massachusetts Landscape, http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/changes-to-the-land.

Mary Metzger is a member of the Groton Conservation Commission.