Berkshire Woods and Waters: New policies on MassWildlife lands

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In his February report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden announced that in response to increased and unauthorized trail development activities as well as requests for new trails on its lands, the Fisheries & Wildlife Board approved a Wildlife Lands Policy and a Walking Trails Policy in August 2016.

Together these policies support MassWildlife's statutory mission of conserving wildlife habitat and providing wildlife-related recreation.

These new policies can be seen by clicking onto the following: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/wildlife-habitat-conservation/walkingtrailspolicy.pdf.

MassWildlife lands generally include simple, gravel or dirt parking lots with unmarked footpaths and wood roads. This minimal-development management approach keeps "wild places wild," while allowing access to nature with an "off-the-beaten path" experience.

Here's what the policies DO:

-     Support MassWildlife's mission to protect wildlife and its habitat

-     Formalize a trails license agreement process for six regional trails

-     Limit trail creation, marking and maintenance

-     Allow areas damaged by trails to recover

-     Continue free public access to MassWildlife lands

The policies DO NOT:

-     Restrict public access to MassWildlife lands

-     Prevent walking on or require closure of any existing path, woods road or cart path on MassWildlife lands

-     Limit hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife-related recreation, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or off-trail exploring.

Unfortunately, MassWildlife sees people developing new trails, cutting new trails or taking some ownership of trails on its lands. These new policies address that problem.

Also Madden reported that MassWildlife recently acquired 125 acres abutting the Peru Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Peru. The newly acquired land is off of East Windsor Road.

According to Madden, this acquisition not only protects and expands on huntable land, but improves access to the WMA, which is one of the District's largest at almost 5,000 acres. The property was cut recently for timber and has a variety of habitats including some wetland features. In the future, they plan to develop a small informal parking area from East Windsor Road. The property boundaries are completely marked.

Keeping with WMA's, Madden reported that the Western District is continuing its boundary marking efforts this winter. Through contract funds and internal staff time, they will be marking more than 40 miles of boundaries by June. MassWildlife's land holdings in the Western District exceed 60,000 acres and 500 miles of boundary.



More information on the 2016 Deer harvest

In last week's column, I mentioned that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2016 was 12,233, and that compared with last year's harvest of 10,042. Also mentioned was that the Western District (WD) accounted for 2,197 of them, which compared to 1,887 last year. Here are more WD data:

Zone 1 produced a harvest of 349 (last year it was 293), Zone 2 — 479 (462), Zone 3 — 539 (486), Zone 4N — 531 (436) and Zone 4S — 299 (210). In the WD, 720 were taken during Archery Season compared to 511 last year; 969 during Shotgun Season compared to 898, and 418 were harvested during the Primitive Firearms Season compared to 320.

The biology structure of the deer harvest has not been broken down yet, but the average age structure for the last five years was: About 40 percent were 1 years old, 30 percent were 2 years old and 30 percent were 3 years old and older. DFW feels that these are desirable age structures.

Incidentally, according to statistics from State Farm Insurance that were provided to MassWildlife, about 7,000-9,000 deer are killed statewide by vehicles each year.



Big E Sportsmen's Show

The 34th annual Springfield Sportsmen's Show opens on Friday, Feb. 24 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Big E in West Springfield.

The hours are Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and 5 yrs and under free.

It is billed as the undisputedly largest "pure" sportsmen's show in the Northeast. The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation that the outdoor world has to offer all bundled together in one great event.

It is filled with hundreds of booths, exhibits, seminars and action areas. For a listing of big-named hunting and fishing presenters and more information, click onto www.osegshows.com.



Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club. It is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie, all for the benefit of elk country.

Tickets are limited, so purchase yours ASAP for a chance to win top notch firearms, premium hunts and exclusive home furnishings. Doors open at 5 p.m. Call Gary D. Johnston at 413-298-3623 for more information.



Hoosic River

The Hoosic River Revival's (HRR) vision is to revitalize the Hoosic River, maintain current levels of flood protection and bring the river back as an asset to the residents of North Adams.

The North Adams Public Library is currently featuring two displays to learn about the history of the Hoosic River and the HRR's vision for the south branch of the river.

The first floor display includes information about the history of the flood chutes in North Adams and an artist rendering that invites residents to "imagine a revitalized Hoosic River."

A second display in the Children's Library on the second floor features fun activities for children along with interesting facts about animals that live along the River. Sara Russell-Scholl, the Youth Services Librarian, has included a collection of children's books about animals that live in and around rivers.

The display, which will continue through February, can be seen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday from noon-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone/fax: 413-637-1818.


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