MassLIFT: AmeriCorps Team Begins Year of Land Conservation
The Massachusetts Land Initiative for Tomorrow (MassLIFT), Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust’s statewide AmeriCorps program, has completed recruiting for the 2011-2012 service year and volunteers have now arrived at partner trusts to begin their service.
MassLIFT provides professional-caliber volunteer support for the town boards, local land trusts, and other mostly volunteer groups that work on land conservation around Massachusetts. Mount Grace has four full-time members at the trust’s Athol office, including one assisting the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership (NQRLP). We also share a member with the Millers River Watershed Council.
Successful projects from the first AmeriCorps year at Mount Grace included testing water quality along the Falls River in Gill and Greenfield with local schools, training town boards in the techniques of monitoring conserved land, assisting with the start of a new community garden in Templeton, organizing a cleanup in Winchendon that removed three tons of trash from a conservation area, and organizing the first Massachusetts Open Space Conference—to provide members of town open space committees a forum to share best practices and compare notes. “The many ways AmeriCorps-MassLIFT members enhance land conservation and reach community members far exceeds our initial expectations,” explains Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. “These enthusiastic volunteers give a tremendous amount of themselves and it is gratifying to see them cultivating their own skills and growing into a new generation of conservationists.”
This year, Keith Davies will return as Outreach Coordinator to divide time between the Millers River Watershed Council and local community garden programs. Community Outreach Coordinator, Aja Lippincott, who has been volunteering with Mount Grace this summer, will focus on developing relationships with civic groups and bringing more people out on to protected land. Davis Brush, an AmeriCorps veteran who has also been an environmental science teacher, will coordinate the service learning program, enlisting area classrooms. Meghan Cornwall will serve as a Land Steward, assisting local land trusts and conservation commissions with baseline and monitoring reports. In addition, Orange-native, Sarah Wells will continue her role as Regional Conservationist for the NQRLP, providing service assistance to towns and local trusts on land protection projects. “Over the past year, I’ve met dedicated citizens and landowners who care deeply about the land,” says Wells, describing her decision to return for a second year. “This year, I’m looking forward to strengthening those relationships and helping some of last year’s land protection projects come to fruition. It’s been personally and professionally rewarding to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the wooded lands of the North Quabbin region where I spent my childhood.”
MassLIFT’s seven partner trusts are Mount Grace, Franklin Land Trust, Greater Worcester Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, Nashua River Watershed Association, Sudbury Valley Trustees, and Wildlands Trust. Other organizations participating include the Appalachian Mountain Club Berkshire Chapter, East Quabbin Land Trust, Greenagers, Groundwork Lawrence, The Millers River Watershed Council, North County Land Trust, and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership. In all, twenty members serve around the state at organizations that work in more than 200 Massachusetts towns. The program expands on Mount Grace's Common Ground Initiative, which was created in 2008 in partnership with Governor Patrick’s Commonwealth Corps program. MassLIFT is funded in part by an AmeriCorps grant managed by the Massachusetts Service Alliance.
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