WESTFORD — After receiving a second Municipal Vulnerability Grant, officials are looking to catalog trees and invasive species within the town, with a focus on regions with vulnerable populations.
Westford receives two rounds of grants, prioritizes vulnerable populations
In 2019, Westford received a $36,000 MVP Planning Grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to complete a public engagement and climate resilience planning process. The planning outlined Westford’s top natural hazards, which included invasive species, extreme temperatures, ice storms and tropical storms.
Westford recently received a MVP Action Grant, totaling $79,200 to be used to undertake a street tree and invasive species inventory and create a management plan. The plan would allow the town to combat natural hazards by removing invasive species and planting more trees.
“The goal is to help us meet our resilience goals,” Susan Thomas, a member of Westford’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee told WestfordCAT. “They [trees] ameliorate air pollution, feed our water, help us with erosion and soil health by maintaining life in the soil, and they feed our ecosystems.”
The program serves to increase equitable outcomes among environmental justice and climate vulnerable populations. In Westford, the grant prioritizes action within two regions where the environmental justice population is greater than 40%.
Consultants outline process, preliminary tree management plan
Dodson and Finker with Davey Resource Group consulted the town on their initial findings. In an April 14 public forum, consultants unveiled the preliminary tree and invasive species inventory that has been completed along sections of Littleton Rd., Boston Rd. and Carlisle Rd.
Consultants also noted that amending code and zoning bylaws would help address urban heat island effects and require development to plant more trees.
Consultants found 36% of surveyed sites along Littleton Rd., Boston Rd., and Carlisle Rd contained trees. The remaining 64% of sites were either vacant, contained stumps or were home to one of the 13 invasive species, including glossy buckthorn and garlic mustard.
“This grant will help us identify where invasive species are and help us where we have heat islands,” Thomas said. “With extreme weather like wind and ice storms you would think it is a bad thing to have trees. If you take trees down without a strategy, you leave trees standing that have grown up with those other trees. They’re more susceptible to wind than they would have been had you left that other tree.”
Officials provide timeline for final draft, additional public input
Officials plan to host a community survey in coming weeks. A second public forum is scheduled for later this year, with the final plan to be unveiled by spring of next year.
Director of Land Use Management Jeffery Morrissette did not respond for comment at the time of reporting.
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