Merrimack River Watershed Council to Work with Forest Service on Development, Climate Change

The Merrimack River from Haverhill to Newburyport. (Creative Commons.)

The Merrimack River Watershed Council is receiving a $250,000 U.S. Forest Service grant to address forest lands being cut into smaller parcels and climate change across the two-state region.

The Watershed Council submitted the Landscape-Scale Restoration grant application, noting “forest fragmentation and climate change threaten the ability of riverfront forests to protect ponds, lakes, streams and rivers in the Merrimack River watershed.”

“Over the course of the next few decades, the region will experience longer droughts, punctuated by extreme rainfall events,” according to a statement. “This weather pattern decreases the land’s natural ability to absorb water and prevent contaminants from entering water supplies.” The Council added development is leaving smaller, isolated land parcels of less than 50 acres which undermines the benefits of contiguous forestland.

The grant begins a three-year partnership between the Council and the Forest Service, as well as Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, UNH Cooperative Extension and the Nashua River Watershed Association. It boosts riverbank resilience projects, fills an education gap in forest practices and increases connections between private landowners.

In 2010 the Forest Service named the Merrimack River watershed as the most threatened in the nation due to development of forest land, and fourth for associated threats to water quality. The loss of forest lands in the watershed’s rural communities is “far outpacing the conservation and restoration of forest lands to protect and filter source water.”

A statement adds this is a risk to drinking water supplies, which are vulnerable to increased pollutant pressure, including nutrients, bacteria and emerging contaminants. The Merrimack River provides drinking water to 600,000 Merrimack Valley residents and is one of the largest surface drinking water supplies in New England.

Comments are closed.