Former Governor Mitt Romney’s proposal to designate the Berkshires and all of Western Massachusetts as national forest is being considered once again. Massachusetts is one of just six states without national forest designation, a situation the Romney administration sought to counter in 2003.
A key aspect of the proposal being considered is that the federal government would not acquire any private land. Instead, it would seek easements from local property owners to restrict development and thus allow the land to remain on tax rolls.
The proposed Massachusetts model, which is being called a “family-forest based” designation, is being pitched as a partnership between private landowners, the state, and the federal government.
“Landowners would retain the rights to own the lands, but sell their right to develop it,” said Lisa Capone of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “The land also remains a working forest, with some level of access to outdoor recreation and protection from commercial development. Massachusetts would be the first state to have the land-easement concept.”