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Friends of the Manuel Correllus State Forest

A newly formed advocacy group, the Friends of the Manuel Correllus State Forest (MCSF), holds its second meeting next week, at 7:00 pm on Tuesday the 27th at the Tisbury Senior Center. Similar “Friends of” groups have formed in 90 communities around Massachusetts in support of local state forests. These groups typically focus on advocacy for improved funding from the state, which is a clear need at MCSF.

However, based on the initial meeting in late January, the mission of the new Friends of MCSF appears to be broader. Forester Bob Woodruff led the meeting, supported by MCSF superintendent Chris Bruno and representatives of a wide range of stakeholders, including abutters, conservation groups, recreational interests, and public safety officials. Perhaps inspired by the words of Dr. Seuss’s grumpy-but-lovable Lorax, Bob characterized the new organization as “. . . the real voice of a forest that can’t speak for itself.”

Increased funding would create opportunities to address many deferred needs at MCSF, including management of 40 to 50 rare species and their supporting habitat. Much of the MCSF habitat requires regular disturbance, with techniques such as prescribed fire to reduce fuel accumulation, mowing, and other approaches to reducing fuel load. Such management also has the added benefit of reducing the long-standing fire risk at MCSF, a critical public safety goal.
The manager of the forest, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) does have more funding available, but will only release it if a local community steps up with 50% matching funds. Therefore, private donations are critical to the groups’ strategy. Thanks to non-profit status extended through the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard, gifts to the Friends group are tax-deductible.

Another role for the Friends of MCSF will be to reach out to town leaders, fire chiefs, and voters to communicate the critical importance of the state forest. It is the Island’s largest and most important conservation area. Its nearly 5,300 acres of “sandplain ecosystem” habitats include globally rare frost bottoms and pine oak barrens, yet not even one-tenth of this area is being adequately managed for habitat protection and public safety protection.

A next-step for the Friends will be to participate in the upcoming public hearings on a draft management plan for MCSF. One goal will be to refine the “use-classifications” at MCSF to be more attuned to its unique characteristics and management needs. Having an organized group supporting the MCSF superintendent and articulating these management needs to the public is an exciting prospect.