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Easthampton, Southampton team up on conservation agent

  • Marty Klein at the Pascommuck Conservation Trust's accessible trail project at Mutter's Field in Easthampton in February 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Marty Klein at the Pascommuck Conservation Trust's accessible trail project at Mutter's Field in Easthampton in February 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@kate_ashworth
Thursday, November 30, 2017

To take the pressure off volunteers and focus more on environmental protection, Easthampton and Southampton have teamed up to hire a shared conservation agent.

Mallory Larcom, 29, started the dual-community position on Nov. 20. She is currently the part-time conservation agent in Hinsdale and will continue in that job. She has also served as the conservation agent for Becket.

Larcom will be responsible for enforcement of wetlands regulations and permitting, as well as planning, acquisition, administration and stewardship of municipal conservation land.

The work was previously done by volunteers on both the Easthampton and Southampton conservation commissions.

“It’s amazing what they do as volunteers,” Larcom said.

Larcom will work 11 hours in Easthampton and eight hours in Southampton. She will maintain office hours for public matters and attend public meetings and hearings.

City Planner Jessica Allan, who is moving to a new job at a real estate consulting firm in Amherst in two weeks, said the first thing she’d like Larcom to tackle is drafting a local wetlands ordinance, which would include additional restrictions and increase buffers.

Having Larcom as the conservation agent will also mean more prompt enforcement of wetlands rules. Allan said Easthampton gets a number of anonymous calls from residents concerned that a neighbor might be harming a wetland or stream. However, Allan said, it can take days to get someone out to the property.

The position is funded for fiscal 2018 through a grant by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Starting July 1, 2018, Easthampton and Southampton will share the costs of the position, which would be approximately $21,000 to $26,000 per year.

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission provided technical assistance for the two communities by drafting the agreement for the position and applying for the grant, according to Allan.

The PVPC also conducted an analysis in 2014 on whether a shared conservation agent would be suitable for the Easthampton and Southampton. It found a need for the position because the region is growing.

This year, Easthampton and Southampton also paired up to protect the Barnes Aquifer. The two communities recently purchased land between Cook and County roads that is part of the aquifer’s recharge area. The aquifer is the main source of water for Easthampton and the backup supply for Southampton.

Allan said Easthampton is now keeping an eye on other pieces of land around the aquifer that will need to be protected in the future.