A group of loggers viewing a logging operation in Whately, Massachusetts
A group of loggers viewing a logging operation in Whately, Massachusetts

The Woodlands Partnership was started in 2013 as a community-driven project for 21 towns in Western Franklin and Northern Berkshire Counties to support forest conservation in the region. Forest conservation was a key recommendation of the Regional Plans for Sustainable Development completed in 2013 by the Regional Planning Agencies for communities in Franklin and Berkshire Counties (Franklin Regional Council of Governments and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission). The 21-town area is roughly 82% forested. Community input expanded the goals of the project to include natural resource-based economic development and financial sustainability of participating towns.

State legislation was filed to formally establish the Partnership as a public body, which enables the 21-town region to jointly and individually pursue State and Federal funds to implement the priorities and goals of the project. The legislation was enacted in August 2018 as part of the Environmental Bond Bill.

Yes, we did! We are waiting on legislative action to formalize the change. See this blog post for more information.

The 21 towns in the Partnership region are Adams; Cheshire; Clarksburg; Florida; New Ashford; North Adams; Peru; Savoy; Williamstown; Windsor in Berkshire County and Ashfield; Buckland; Charlemont; Colrain; Conway; Hawley; Heath; Leyden; Monroe; Rowe; Shelburne in Franklin County.

Organizations represented on the Board include Berkshire Natural Resources Council; Deerfield River Watershed Association; Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; Franklin County Community Development Corporation; Franklin Land Trust; Franklin Regional Council of Governments; Hoosic River Watershed Association; Lever, Inc.; Massachusetts Forest Alliance; Ohketeau Cultural Center; University of Massachusetts Amherst Forest Ecosystems, Carbon Cycling in Terrestrial Systems & Climate Change Faculty; University of Massachusetts Amherst, Public Health & Health Sciences Faculty; Yankee Division of Society of American Foresters, Massachusetts Chapter; US Forest Service Liaison, Northern Research Station at UMass Amherst; US Forest Service Liaison.

As of May 2024, 20 of the eligible 21 towns have voted to join the Partnership.

See a list of our Board members HERE!

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA) offers yearly grant funding of up to $25,000 to each community, and up to $75,000 to each regional initiative, that has voted to participate in the Partnership. Eligible activities must advance the Partnership goals of supporting natural resource-based economic development or increasing forest conservation.

Read more HERE.

The Partnership seeks both to conserve our forests and enhance our region’s rural, land-based economy. The following are our goals as they appear in the Partnership’s Ten-Year Plan (2022-2032):

GOAL 1: Conserve forestland while keeping it in private ownership to protect the region’s rural character and enhance the role forests play in providing clean water and air, flood control, carbon sequestration and storage, and habitat protection in New England

  • Purchase development rights (conservation restrictions or CRs) from willing landowners committed to long-term sustainable forest management, which helps people to continue to own and care for their land instead of selling it for development or selling timber rights for unsustainable harvests.
  • Provide technical assistance to landowners to foster sustainable forest management, wildlife habitat improvement, climate change resilience, woodland preservation, and to address the issue of tree diseases as well as invasive pests and plants.
  • Promote research on sustainable forestry practices. Partner to increase research on sustainable /exemplary forestry practices in the region’s diverse forests, ways to market and use local forest-based products, and to disseminate the knowledge from applied science that results.
  • Enhance the ecological integrity of the region’s forests in an era of rapid climate change, including evaluation of carbon credit programs and markets (verified to provide additionality of climate benefit) for private woodland owners.
  • Appropriate acknowledgment and valuing of the role that old-growth forests play in carbon sequestration and providing ecosystem services in our forested landscapes.


GOAL 2: Increase economic development and expand employment by nurturing sustainable forest products, outdoor recreation, and natural resource and tourism-based businesses

  • Strengthen the marketing and branding of sustainable local forest products and ecotourism from the Northern Berkshires and Hilltowns.
  • Provide assistance to improve sustainable tourism infrastructure and associated outdoor recreation businesses.
  • Support research and development of new, innovative wood products.
  • Increase sustainable natural resources-related local jobs, especially for younger residents to help invigorate communities for the future.


GOAL 3: Improve the fiscal stability of municipalities

  • Provide funding to participating towns for municipal services related to outdoor recreation and tourism, and to address governmental ownership of lands and forest conservation restriction programs related to local tax bases.
  • Provide technical assistance to towns interested in developing carbon credit projects to improve stewardship and receive payments from their town forests.
  • Advocate for equitable and sufficient Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to compensate municipalities for State ownership, conservation restrictions, ecosystem services, and other impacts of sustainable practices on local tax bases.
  • Secure sources of funding to support municipal services and tax bases while recognizing ecosystem services and benefits to the Commonwealth and larger region provided by our forests.


GOAL 4: Engage in public education and outreach

  • Develop a collaboration with the Indigenous Peoples of the region to incorporate their participation and knowledge in management of the forests.
  • Collaborate with educational institutions (pre-K through graduate) to promote forest conservation and sustainable forest land uses.
  • Establish demonstration forests on town and private forests to inform the public about best management practices and how forest stewardship can enhance climate resilience and carbon storage.
  • Build a multi-purpose Forest Center, beginning with an online, virtual Forest Center, where residents and visitors can learn about the benefits that forests provide, showcase local wood products, celebrate the Berkshires and Hilltowns,and promote sustainable outdoor recreation and natural resource-based tourism.

The 2018 enabling legislation specified that there “shall be established and set up on the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Fund, hereafter referred to as the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Fund.” Since this separate fund has not yet come to fruition, the Woodlands Partnership has relied on short-term funding and grants from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, as well as grants from New England Forestry Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Congressionally-Directed Spending funds.

Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to join our meetings! The Partnership is made stronger by the inclusion of additional voices. Visit here to see upcoming meetings and events.

Find out more about what the Woodlands Partnership is doing in the region!