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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Since 2013, The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has celebrated its Forest Appreciation Day with an annual gathering to celebrate town forests. Held in a different community each year, this year’s event was held in Sherborn on Saturday, September 14, and allowed the town to show off the extensive forestry work they’ve been doing to a much wider audience.
Kelly McClintock from the Sherborn Conservation Committee explained that the event was really a culmination of the work Sherborn has been doing for the last couple of years.
“Sherborn has been doing, for five or six years, a major forest stewardship and habitat restoration program supported by the Department of Recreation and Conservation, and this is Sherborn’s opportunity today to show off what we’ve achieved to a larger audience, to get people from around the state to see what we’ve done, and how good for us the DCR programs have been.”
The day started at Sherborn Community Center, where a room full of people started the day with coffee and donuts before various speakers were introduced. Charles Yon spoke of how proud Sherborn is to have so much green space, while also noting that Boston Magazine voted their community as having the best public schools in the Commonwealth. After the line received a smattering of applause, Yon joked: “those are the taxpayers.”
Other speakers talked about the effects forests have on global climate change, and how, even in Sherborn, the effects of invasive species can be seen in the amount of dead oak trees (a problem that started in Southern Massachusetts, but is spreading).
Everyone that attended was also gifted two free books: “More Than a Woodlot: Getting the Most From Your Family Forest” by Stephen Long and “Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England” by Tom Wessels.
While all of this was going on, there were a few wooden boxes covered in blankets resting on the stage. When the speeches were done, Jim Parks of Wingmasters showed everyone in the audience why they were there. Wingmasters is a partnership of two licensed raptor rehabilitators that cares for injured birds and uses live bird shows to increase public understanding and appreciation of North American birds of prey. Parker joked that the presentation could be called “Sherborn birds of prey,” as the animals he was presenting (such as the eastern screech owl, barred owl and American kestrel) can all be found in the area. However, when he brought out the kestrel, he noted that they are increasingly disappearing from the Northeast due to their need for open spaces.
Interestingly, Parker has received calls that these unique birds were on Mass Ave in Cambridge and in a Lowell junkyard. Even among the obviously outdoorsy crowd, people were surprised at how small the bird was (it weighed a mere four ounces), which Parker said happens often as, for whatever reason, everyone is convinced falcons are huge. While this one needed to remain captive due to a problem with its left leg, Parker said their organization has a great record in terms of returning the animals to the wild.
As fascinating as Parker’s presentation was, a large collection of forest-loving people is always going to need to be outside. Because of this, the day was filled with hiking opportunities and outdoor events. After the Wingmasters presentation, buses were provided to transport the group to field tours of Sherborn’s proposed management area and the Sherborn Town Forest Committee’s firewood program. After that, a van transfer to Barber Reservation was set - which was important, given that Kelly McClintock pointed to Sherborn’s work on the reservation as one of the things he was most proud to show off.
“To be honest, there are multiple things,” said McClintock. “It’s been a broad scale restoration program at Barber Reservation. Barber is our largest and most ecologically diverse conservation property and we’ve restored habitat in the fields, removed encroachments from the borders, done a timber thinning, and restored the historic 1796 barn. It’s been a multifaceted program, and we’re very proud of it.”
Sherborn has put in the work to take care of its forests. On Saturday, September 14, the town showed it off to a very knowledgeable - and rather appreciative - crowd.