Watershed Management Plan
The Town of Amherst maintains significant watershed forest holdings to protect its reservoirs and underground water supplies*. Watershed holdings total 2,662 acres, with approximately 690 acres in Shutesbury, 1537 acres in Pelham, 140 acres in Belchertown, and 300 acres in the Lawrence Swamp in South Amherst. The watershed holdings are divided into a number of different compartments, and each compartment is managed separately. A typical management plan includes the number of acres being managed, the boundary lines of the compartment, the forest cover type, any tributaries flowing through the compartment, wildlife found in the compartment, and management focus and goals. The following is a Summary of Compartment 1, Nurse Brook Watershed:
“This 122 acre compartment is in two sections along Pratt Corner Road in Shutesbury. The northern boundary is the Leverett/Shutesbury town line. Typical of rural New England, this area has reverted to forestland following farm and field abandonment in the late 1800s. Extensive blowdown occurred during the hurricane of 1938.
The forest cover is regionally typical, with a predominance of white pine. Red maple and other hardwoods are secondary. There is a fairly even representation of size classes, including large, medium, and small sawtimber and poletimber.
Several tributaries of Nurse Brook flow through the compartment, and eventually into Adams Brook. Pratt Corner Road also goes through both sections.
Wildlife of interior mixed forest will be found here, with special wildlife values in the larger pines, the abundance of cavity trees, and the Nurse Brook corridors.
Management will focus on selection harvesting and thinning to reduce the proportion of red maple and other low quality species, while harvesting some of the pines. The overall goal is to increase the average quality and growth rate of the forest, while maintaining wildlife and watershed values, and the aesthetic corridor along Pratt Corner Road.”
Watershed Goals and Objectives
The Town of Amherst owns nearly 2,600 acres of forested land to protect surface water supplies. The watershed lands, whether in-town or in neighboring communities, are managed to maintain water quality through selective forestry and timber harvesting, with the additional benefits of providing wildlife habitat and informal areas to recreate. Motorized vehicles and all formal recreation such as trails and playing fields are prohibited on watershed lands. The only exception is the well-traveled and historic route of the Metacomet & Monadnock (M&M) Trail as it crosses through the Pelham Reservoir System watershed. Watershed lands are considered restricted open space and allow only informal passive or traditional consumptive forms of recreation such as walking, bird watching and hunting which do not threaten the integrity of the water resource. The Town of Amherst prevents trails from developing on protected watershed lands by restricting access with perimeter “No Trespassing” signs, gated entries along access roads, partnerships with the local Police Departments, and weekly windshield inspections with semiannual site visits. These measures have been used successfully to maintain the nearly 2,600 acres of forested land the Town owns in Amherst, Shutesbury and Pelham. Guiding the Town‘s actions is a long-term (10 year) forest management plan. The plan‘s goals are to produce continual income (both short-term and long-term), enhance wildlife habitat, protect soil and water quality, and produce forested lands that maintain a balance of new growth and mature trees, and a variety of soft and hard wood species. The plan also strives to limit the spread of invasive species and preserve tree canopy to maintain the high water quality entering Amherst‘s drinking water supply. By managing timber to maintain water quality, sensitive ecological areas and the medium-yield aquifer located near the reservoirs will be protected from future development and agricultural uses.
As part of Amherst‘s long-term forest management plan, the Town‘s Land Manager works with to develop annual cutting plans for individual properties (and specified areas). When developing these annual plans great care is taken to minimize the impact to the environment: trees marked prior to harvesting; filter strips are used along wetlands or sensitive areas; skid trails are matted with slash; and harvests are timed to occur during frozen or dry conditions to protect the hydrologic resources of a property. Matting and slash are also frequently used to stabilize stream crossings, and portable bridges are used where necessary. Regeneration of saplings is protected by proper skid road layout, directional felling, and the use of a forwarder. The methods used for such selective natural harvesting ensures that the Town will continue to have a viable forestry operation.
The Town currently has seven sources that contribute to meeting the water demand: Atkins Reservoir, the Pelham Reservoir System, the South Amherst Wells (#1 & #2), The Brown Well (#3), the Lawrence Swamp Well (#4) and the Bay Road Well (#5). Both surface water supplies, Atkins and Pelham, and Wells 1, 2 & 3 are used year round to satisfy the required demands. These five sources supply approximately 90% of the total water produced. Wells #4 and #5 operate during high demand periods and summer months when the reservoirs are low.
The water system serves 6,369 customers with a service population of 38,000, with 41 percent of water used by the University and colleges. The average daily water consumption for the year 2007 was 3.24 million gallons.
*Watershed = reservoir; aquifer = wells