Neighborhood Outreach Project Award Announcement – February 22, 2021

Neighborhood Outreach Project  Award Announcement – February 22, 2021

Worcester County Conservation District was awarded $2,415 for the project of reaching out to landowners in Northern Worcester County through webinars that encourage long term land use planning.  Funding is provided by the MA DCR Service Forestry Program through the Working Forests Initiative.

The Worcester County Conservation District (WCCD) in partnership with the North County Land Trust (NCLT) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will hold a webinar series reaching out to landowners in the towns of Northern Worcester County. A particular focus will be in the towns of Lunenburg, Fitchburg, Lancaster, Gardner, and Leominster, but any interested resident of Worcester County will be invited to participate. Opportunities for site visits by WCCD and partners’ staff will be encouraged for anyone interested in one-on-one follow up information on their lands. This investment in resources by the organizations involved in this grant proposal speak to their commitment to reach landowners of vulnerable land since the on-site visits will take place after the term of this grant.

The goal of this project is to increase awareness in and involvement by landowners in Northern Worcester County in preservation restriction programs and the use of native species as part of good land conservation practices. This ambitious goal will be met through the synergy produced by the partner organizations. Through programs offered to landowners in Worcester County the WCCD has reached new audiences who are interested in land preservation and land conservation assistance. With a long history of partnership with the WCCD, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance programs to landowners committed to natural resource conservation and preservation. The NCLT’s successful history makes it well positioned to help landowners access land preservation programs in the targeted neighborhood of Northern Worcester County.

The proposed webinar series is designed to reach forest landowners by offering topics practical to forest management on private land, and other landowners with concerns about the overall health of the natural environment.  In addition, all participants will receive weblinks to portals for accessing valuable information about land preservation options and natural resource conservation financial assistance programs. All webinars will be recorded and posted to WCCD and NCLT’s YouTube channels and promoted through their social media outlets.  The webcasts will also include contact information for scheduling follow up site visits to customize the webinar topics to the specific needs of that landowner.

The proposed webinars will take place between February 15 and May 1, 2021 and include the following topics.

  1. Webinar: Understanding your forest soils: Tree-soil interactions 101, how to make a soil map, and considerations for successful tree planting.

People too often forget about the unseen half of trees underground, yet the inherent and dynamic properties of the soil in which a tree is growing can make the difference between if it succeeds or fails. This webinar will take a deep dive into the intersection of soil science and forest ecology with practical implications for forest management and tree planting. Attendees will learn how to; use free mapping tools to create a soil map for their property and take a soil test to determine what might grow best on that location.

Presenter: Joel Betts, Natural Resource Planner for NRCS and WCCD

  1. Webinar: Introducing native plant species to your landscape to reduce water use and promote water quality – A case study in lawn care

This webinar will introduce the uninformed and update the trend followers to the benefits of planting native plants and trees in the landscape as a way to tame but not thatch the area. These alternative plant choices can achieve multiple benefits which include improving water use, decreasing invasive species and decreasing potential water pollution inputs from overly managed lawns.

Presenter: Gretel Anspach – a Trustee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and a Lifetime Master Gardener with the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association.  Ms. Anspach won the MMGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Her primary interest and focus is in the science behind horticulture.

  1. Webinar: The intersection of bird habit and the availability of native species

The webinar will provide a window into the codependent relationship between the habitat native species provide and the reliance some birds have on insects who inhabit those plants

Presenter: Martha Gach, PhD – Education Manager & Conservation Coordinator with Mass Audubon. Dr. Gach will (virtually) bring to life some of the ecological relationships that occur in forests and open spaces leaving the audience with a deeper knowledge about why lands in Northern Worcester County should be protected.


  • Description of desired outcomes

The goal of these educational webinars is to increase interest in land preservation and natural resource conservation programs to landowners in around Lunenburg, Fitchburg, Lancaster, Gardner, and Leominster where focused outreach will be targeted. Landowners in Northern Worcester County will also be singled out in the webinar promotion. To evaluate our success in reaching our goals attendees will receive survey questions during the webinar and their answers will be tallied to gage the extent of interest in the programs discussed. The results of the polling will be included in the grant reporting.  Additionally, requests for further assistance generated by webcast attendance will also be noted in the final report as a measure of successful outreach.