By Daniel Schemer, September 2010
For the last year plans and activities have been going on to better manage the forested areas of UMass Dartmouth and utilize them for both aesthetic and academic means. With renewed focus on its natural resources, the university believes its woodlands should be properly enhanced and maintained because of the physical, environmental, cultural, and curricular values attached, its necessity to our wildlife, and to promote long-term forest management and sustainability education. Starting in October, areas behind the Cedar Dell will be cleared and thinned as part of a Forest Stewardship Plan to make the forest healthier, prettier, and more accessible for both the campus and surrounding community.
UMass Dartmouth’s acreage contains almost 400 acres of uncut woods, meadows, wetlands, ponds, streams, and various habitats. These habitats contain various wildlife and plants, including species of flora and fauna rare and indigenous to the area. Earlier in the year all of this was enrolled in a 10-year Forestry Stewardship Plan, approved by the Massachusetts Forestry Council, to preserve these habitats and animal and plant species, to develop the land as a conservation trust, and to serve as a regional model for sustainable forestry, land management, environmental conservation, and natural carbon sequestering for offsetting campus CO2 emissions. The university is also partnering with Dartmouth Conservation Commission and Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife for further assistance.
Over the summer, old trails behind the football field were restored and cleared of brush to be used for scenic nature walks and bicycling. Next month, more scenic trails will be created, designated “no-cut zones” will be marked, and key areas will be thinned and maintained in order to facilitate growth of tree species, to better present history of land use in the region, and to provide other educational endeavors. Plans are also underway to harvest campus wood as timber using approved methods for various university projects and for local businesses.
The land also represents significant research and educational opportunities; faculty and administration from various academic disciplines have already expressed interest in integrating the environment into their curriculum and bringing students out onto the land. In addition to biological studies, such as mapping biodiversity, research on plant species, and using the environment as a laboratory, the pond area itself has innumerable research possibilities, like weed thinning, water-purification, and soil fertilization. Further down the line, the university wants to revitalize communal binds through ecological appreciation; this includes guided forest tours, K-12 school field trips and lesson plans, and presentations on sustainable forestry, land management, conservation, and climate change for professionals, teachers, and residents.
If you wish to learn more, the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability will host an informational session, called Cedar Dell Stories, on Monday, September 20, beginning at Noon, on the Cedar Dell Lawn on Ring Road. Attendees will be able to learn more about the Forest Stewardship plan, the contents of UMass Dartmouth’s acreage, and the history of the land. To learn more, visit the Living Classroom page, or call the Sustainability Office at 508-910-6484.